The Court Case Result
In Stirling sheriff court, on the 26th of April 2016, it was confirmed that coal freight movements had stopped and would not resume. As a result, Stirling Council withdrew the statutory nuisance abatement order served on DB Shenker and Freightliner in December 2015. There was no longer any need for them to appeal.
Why the Shaking Stopped
The noise and vibration of the coal freight wagons was sufficient to damage the glass canopies in Stirling station, according to a Network Rail spokesperson. Rail chiefs said this station was being damaged by freight(see news report) . Network Rail managers showed little sign of concern that the physical pollutants that were damaging their own infrastructure were undermining the health and sleep of those living next to the line.
The coal freight came to an end. It might seem, at a glance, like an amicable agreement had been reached, but all is not as it seems.
Longannet, the third largest coal-fired power station in W Europe, closed in March 2016, the freight companies were no longer being paid to run freight day and night. Simply put, when the money stopped, the pollution stopped.
Peace For Now But is the Current UK Rail System Sustainable?
DB Shenker’s coal-spilling wagons (pictured) no longer clank across the Central Belt of Scotland each night, bedrooms no longer reverberate to the 90dBlamax roar of the locomotives that haul them, but, it must be acknowledged that this has nothing to do with the freight operators’ consideration for public health or their decision to act in a sustainable manner.
Corporate social responsibility, or CSR appears to be something of an enigma on the UK rail system. Many, including the publicly owned organisation that runs the system, Network Rail, appear to take the attitude that it is not their problem if the public are exposed to high levels of vibration and noise pollution from their premises and operations, this despite health warnings from public health bodies about the high blood pressure, heart disease and child development issues that result from excessive exposure. Health authorities and researchers have been issuing warnings for over thirty years, health reports and commentary frequently appear in national newspapers, radio and TV.
Council’s Late Bid to Protect Public Health
The Council executive did, eventually, after sustained pressure from the public and elected councillors, serve an abatement order. The question arises: why did it take 8 years? And, if World Health Organization noise levels are exceed again, will the public take another prolonged dose of health-limiting exposure before the Council fulfils it’s legal obligations to protect?
Answering the Big Questions
It is clear that Councils can and do serve abatement orders against noise and vibration emissions from railways. They just did. In fact they are legally obliged to do so where the levels constitute a statutory nuisance (either a nuisance or prejudicial to health), under EPA1990 legislation.
But Councils should do so within a reasonable time scale, according to government guidelines. We are talking about a couple of months, not the best part of a decade. A formal complaint and request for a review of this case will be made to Stirling Council executive asking why an obligatory process to protect public health was carried out on a glacial time scale , why, ultimately, it failed the public it was supposed to protect, and what measures will be taken to ensure this does not happen again. The outcome will be listed here.
AECOM, the global Consultants who advised against providing night noise mitigation when the railway opened and who presented their clients with ridiculous claims about people’s ability to absorb high levels of noise without it unduly affecting their lives, not to mention their bespoke version of World Health Organization noise guidelines, are going be asked at CEO and Director level to investigate their pivotal role in this unmitigated noise fiasco.
To find out more about the global, ethical corporation that is AECOM, the Council response and the responsibility of rail companies to start acting in a responsible manner, sign up to this blog.
A McIver, NVAG.
Statement Provided by Stirling Council Legal Department:
” . . . following the closure of Longannet and confirmation from the train operators’ that there has been no train movements since closure and that there is no remaining coal stock at Longannet the Council has undertaken to withdraw the Abatement Notices on the basis that the nuisance no longer exists/has been abated.”