BBC Reports on Freight Train Misery

BBC Reports on UK Rail Problem

BBC Scotland has reported on the issue of the SAK railway line and the six year problem of getting a decent night’s sleep. Broadcast on BBC’s evening news on the 12th Feb 2015, it includes footage of DB Shenker (DB Bahn) freight, accounts of the experience of lineside residents, actions being taken by the Council, statements from Network Rail shots along the line, a line whose mitigation was advised by global Consultants AECOM. Link to news item: Freight . . . by Day and by Night

Network Rail was quoted as saying:


However, typical noise levels at bedroom windows based on the official 2009 Noise Assessment were


This is 20dB higher and four times louder than the 60dB night noise maximum advised by the World Health Organization.

Network Rail’s CEO, Mark Carne, is invited to respond to three questions later in this post. In a further post we intend to ask the global consultants AECOM about their involvement in the non-allocation of night noise mitigation.

Network Rail also stated in the BBC news item that:

Mitigation measures are in place

Mitigation – Protecting the Public
AECOM, the Consultants hired by the promoters to assess and advise on noise and vibration, put forward the view in their 2009 Noise Assessment that there was no need to provide mitigation for night noise. They based this on their opinion that 82dBLamax could be exceeded twice an hour 1metre outside a bedroom window without disturbing sleep. This appears to defy logic and any evidence-based understanding of sleep, but was used to justify refusal of night mitigation. Some acoustic barriers were provided to address daytime noise. These barriers were refused when the line opened; it took a resident to petition Parliament and a four year delay before this daytime mitigation was supplied. However, to cut peak night noise levels sufficiently to allow for sleep would have involved the provision of acoustic glazing and ventilation at a large number of properties along the length of the line. Following AECOM’s advice, this wasn’t supplied.

In an earlier post we described how the vibration from DB Shenker owned wagons, carrying 100 tons of coal each and fitted with basic bogies based on a1930s design, were shaking houses and stressing the people inside. Many residents say vibration is their biggest problem. Apart from deeper ballast in places, we aren’t aware of any aspects of the infrastructure or of the freight being made to resolve this particular problem. Tamping, checking and general maintenance, according to those afflicted, make no tangible difference.

More on AECOM
In a future post we will invite AECOM to explain their recommendation that noise events, unlimited in loudness, twice an hour during the night, don’t require mitigation and, bizarrely, that this is conducive to undisturbed sleep. We’d also like to know how such advice relates to AECOM’s high ethical standards, their Ethisphere rating, and their stated purpose of ‘protecting the social environment’. See AECOM purpose and core values.

Network Rail, Questions Based on the BBC News Item
Network Rail operates and maintains the line, is responsible for managing noise and vibration levels (according to the ORR) and, at the time of construction, Network Rail’s Director in Scotland, Ron McAuley, sat on the Project Board that administered construction of this line. Official assessments by AECOM show night noise levels next to this modern line are typically four times louder, and can be as much as eight times louder, than WHO health-advised levels. Yet in the video Network Rail are quoted as saying that it is running within expected freight noise parameters.

Q1 Are Network Rail saying that it is normal for them to disregard and vastly exceed public health-based noise levels when running night freight, and that this is ‘expected’?

Q2 How is Network Rail, through it’s sustainability policy and the actions of the management system responsible for delivering that policy, assessing and tackling the current health impact of operational noise and vibration on the surrounding community?

Q3 Does Network Rail recognize the concept of Corporate Social Responsibilty, CSR, or does Network Rail depend on external enforcement, such as local Councils monitoring noise and vibration levels and serving abatement orders, to control the level of health-impacting emissions?

The Rail Network- Rising to the Challenge
We appreciate that Richard Price of the Office of Rail Regulation went to the trouble of providing a detailed response on our Roles, Regulation and Responsibility article and that he agreed to have his response posted on this site (see previous posts). We appreciate too the work of David Miller, BBC Scotland environment correspondent, reporter Yana Thandrayen, and other staff in the BBC for their concern and time producing the TV news item. We also appreciate that the Councillors of Stirling Council have, besides their many other commitments, have taken on board the Council’s obligation to protect the environment and to act for ordinary people who are being exposed to chronic rail noise and vibration.

To Mark Carne, CEO of Network Rail, you are invited to respond to the three questions above on night noise parameters, sustainability at the basic level of regard for public health, and corporate social responsibility. As with the Office of Rail Regulation’s reply, and if you agree, your response will be posted on this website.

Archie McIver, NVAG.

Note, the above is believed to be correct and, where applicable, based on documented material. If any of the above is incorrect, please advise and relevant corrections will be made.

‘Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.’?

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  1. c eastwood

    typical arrogance from nr who test trains next to us until after midnight and the impotent council keep having “meetings” but nothing has been done to stop it for four months now.

    • ChairPerson

      It would be interesting to push a complaint right to the top of Network Rail’s system and onto the Transport Minister and ORR. NR make out they ‘exceed line side neighbours expectations’ and are good corporate citizens. Sadly the PR masks (thinly) a company with no environmental standards for noise or vibration and that thinks they can dump harmful levels of this pollution on residents’ homes and still push out PR about having a great health and safety record. Abysmal.

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