Context: NVAG Posted an Article on Railways’s 3Rs, Roles, Regulations an Responsibilities an article that concluded with an open letter to Richard Price, CEO of the Office of Rail Regulation.
Richard Price, CEO of ORR, Responded as Follows (also available as a PDF file from ORR’s website):
Dear Mr McIver,
6 February 2015
SUSTAINABILITY, NOISE AND VIBRATION
Thank you for your open letter of 21 January regarding noise and vibration
from railway operations.
As well as having led work on the economics of sustainable development, I
live next to the railway myself, so I fully understand your concerns and the
importance of this issue. It really matters, and affects the quality of people’s
lives. I also recognise that the legal framework for the oversight and
enforcement of noise and vibration levels on the railways is not
straightforward – so let me try to set out the different responsibilities clearly.
Rail Vibration Shaking Houses and People Inside
We asked, and we got responses. Freight vibration is a real problem. Even residents who didn’t have a problem before are finding there is a problem now. This could be due to wear, lack of maintenance, heavier loads, different speeds or acceleration of the train, etc. Many complained about the ‘square wheel’ wagons that are dragged, clunking, back and forth along the line.
The standard of rolling stock being run by German-based firm D B Shenker is, according to a report (see later), much lower than that of the other freight company, Freightliner, that used to run on this line. The DBS owned locomotives and wagons were originally owned by EWS, hence the white EWS lettering on brown background. DBS is a global freight corporation that describes itself as ‘a pioneer in environmental performance’.
A report on rail vibration presented by Michael Mathieson, MSP, to the Scottish Parliament, explained that DBS wagons have a very basic design of suspension system that puts several tons of unsprung dead weight on the rails. The report points out that wagons of this standard would not have been permitted on UK lines prior to privatization of British Rail because of the damage to infrastructure from vibration. It also notes that they would not be permitted on many European railways. Why does Networkrail allow them to run day and night right next to family homes, wakening children who have to go to school next day, shaking the beds, the tables, the fittings of the elderly and the infirm who need proper rest?
What about standards? Do Networkrail manage noise and vibration? The Office of Rail Regulation say they do however we have asked Networkrail repeatedly for the noise and vibration standards they apply but to no avail. Do they apply the British Standard for levels of residential/domestic vibration, the standards that resident were told would be used on the new 21st Century SAK line? Do they even measure noise and vibration on the rail network? We are still awaiting an answer.
Action. The Environmental Statement for the SAK line said that vibration mitigation measures would be implemented. If they were, they appear not to be working. Stirling Council will be measuring vibration levels in areas where complaints have been made. If they constitute a statutory nuisance, it’s likely abatement orders will be served.
What Now? . . . Read more on health and solutions to this issue.
GETTING A COMPLAINT FORM
Click here to download a complaint form . This will open a new page with a download button. Just click the download button (and direct download option) and it will save a PDF file to your computer. PRINT for yourself and for any neighbours who are affected. The form is 3 pages long, you only fill in the first page which is the essential part (takes about 5 minutes), but you should include page 2 as this is the request for the Council to take action. Page 3 is additional information and is optional. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of what you’ve filled in, then post or hand it in to your own Council at the address below. If you have problems, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, phone the Council, tell them you want to make a Formal Complaint about Environmental Pollution and give them the relevant information using the form as a guide. [Posting or handing the form in is probably better].
WHERE TO SEND THE COMPLAINT FORM
COUNCIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS:
CLACKMANNANSHIRE Lynn Parsler, Environmental Health, Clackmannanshire Council, Greenfield, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, FK10 2AD, Tel: 01259 450000
STIRLING Mr B Friel, Environmental Health, Stirling Council, Viewforth, Stirling FK8 2ET, (from landline): 0845 277 7000, Phone (from mobile): 01786 404040, Text: 07717 990 001
STIRLING HAND IN POINT Stirling residents can also hand complaints in at Stirling Council’s Thistle Centre Office: Customer First, 1 – 5 Port Street, Stirling FK8 2EJ (bottom of KIng Street) 9 am – 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday, but make sure it is properly addressed (to Mr B Friel, Environmental Health etc above) for it to reach the correct Council department.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
The Council should write to you telling you how they intend to deal with the problem. Keep any correspondence and watch out for announcements on the http://www.nvag.org.uk website or keep checking your email for further developments.
Noise and vibration cause additional health risks as well as being a nuisance so do what you can to minimize exposure, make sure that you monitor your health, especially for blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. Parents should be aware that noise exposure causes cognitive developmental issues in children that may impact on their schooling. NHS Forth Valley have been informed and the Councils are taking steps to investigate the situation.
At a full Stirling Council meeting on 28th Feb 2013, the council approved a noise and vibration working group as one of the items on a busy agenda. An amendment was approved that changed both the timescale of the working group to 6 months and revised the membership. The working group now consists of the environment portfolio holder, Councillor Danny Gibson, and the three Councillors of the Castle Ward: Councillor Johanna Boyd, Councillor Jim Thompson and Councillor John Hendry. The remit focuses mostly on the problem of the SAK line although it will also look at the wider issues of rail noise and vibration.
Thanks goes to Councillor Mark Russel who suggested the formation of a working group as a way forwards during the Petition Panel consideration stage. Although not on the working group he is interested in its progress and has asked to be kept informed
NVAG welcome the creation of this group and are keen that the Councillors take on board the views of residents impacted by the noise and vibration and take measures to find an effective resolution to this five year old problem. Indications are that the group will call on locals, NVAG, Forth Valley Health Board and other bodies such as the rail operators and government agencies.
NVAG would like to thank those residents who went to the trouble of collecting signatures that made this petition viable and also to Zara Kitson, who, although not a line side resident, suggested the petition at one of NVAG’s first meetings in 2012, and who spoke on its behalf at the petition panel hearing last month.
This is a positive step by Stirling Council for both democracy and accountability. When will Clackmannanshire Council follow this example and introduce a petition system so that hard-hit residents under its care have a voice in the democratic process?
A McIver, 5th Mar 2013
The Dec 7th meeting of the core group and area reps with conference call from Sarah Smith of Thompsons solicitors proved to be very productive. Key issues:
- Legal action likely to start in mid 2013
- Confirmation that legal action is on a no win -no fee basis
- Action will be on human rights breach
- Letters are being processed by Thompsons at the moment for issue to the various bodies against whom claims will be made
- Residents not already participating should be wary as they may run out of time. A one year time bar runs from the cessation of the cause of the problem.
- An event at the entrance to the Scottish Parliament was suggested so that MSPs and media can find out more about the case. Members would be urged to attend and MSPs would get to hear recordings of 82dB train noise recordings. Although the suggestion was that Thursday 20th Dec would be a good day, a survey of members found that many still had work commitments till the Friday and that another date/time would be more viable.
We look forwards to NVAG members finding a solution to this four year old problem in 2013.
Evidence provided by the World Health Organization on health effects of traffic-related noise in Europe
Bonn and Copenhagen, 30 March 2011
THIS IS A DIRECT QUOTE OF THE FULL ARTICLE as issued by the World Health Organization. ALL RIGHTS ACKNOWLEDGED. THIS ARTICLE is NOT by NVAG
“Traffic-related noise accounts for over 1 million healthy years of life lost annually to ill health, disability or early death in the western countries in the WHO European Region. This is the main conclusion of the first report assessing the burden of disease from environmental noise in Europe, released today by WHO/Europe. Noise causes or contributes to not only annoyance and sleep disturbance but also heart attacks, learning disabilities and tinnitus.
“Noise pollution is not only an environmental nuisance but also a threat to public health,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “We hope that this new evidence will prompt governments and local authorities to introduce noise control policies at the national and local levels, thus protecting the health of Europeans from this growing hazard.”
“Among environmental factors in Europe, environmental noise leads to a disease burden that is second in magnitude only to that from air pollution. One in three people experiences annoyance during the daytime and one in five has disturbed sleep at night because of noise from roads, railways and airports. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.
“The new publication presents the results of an international study, coordinated by WHO/Europe and supported by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), that reviews the evidence on health effects, provides guidance to quantify risks from environmental noise and estimates the burden of disease in western European countries. Better surveillance and data collection are needed in south-eastern Europe and central Asia, where a lack of exposure data inhibits estimates of the extent of health effects in these parts of the Region.
“This new review of evidence is WHO’s contribution to the policy process in the European Union. We hope that it can influence the update of the European Union directive to include stricter limit values for noise pollution, and that it can be extended to other parts of the Region,” comments Rok Ho Kim, Scientist, Noise and Health at WHO/Europe, who coordinated the WHO project to draw up the report.
“To protect public health from environmental noise, collaboration between WHO/Europe, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency is increasingly strengthened, with the aim of implementing in a synergistic way the 2010 Parma Declaration and the European Union’s noise-related directives. This collaboration is enabled by the common noise assessment methodological framework (CNOSSOS-EU) being developed by the European Commission,” says Dr Stylianos Kephalopoulos, coordinator of CNOSSOS-EU.
“This publication is primarily for policy-makers, experts, supporting agencies and other stakeholders that need to estimate and act on the effects of environmental noise. It provides the basis for revised WHO guidelines on noise, which Member States requested at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Parma, Italy in 2010.
“For questions about the data contained in the guidelines, contact:
Dr Rok Ho Kim
Scientist, Noise and Health, Bonn Office, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Tel.: +49 228 815 0421
For further information and interview requests, contact:
Ms Cristiana Salvi
Technical Officer, Partnership and Communications, Rome Office, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Via Francesco Crispi, 10 – 4th floor
Tel.: +39 06 4877 543, +39 348 0192 305 (mobile)
New evidence from WHO on health effects of traffic-related noise in Europe
Bonn and Copenhagen, 30 March 2011
NVAG launch, Stirling, May 18th 2012.
The Noise Vibration Action Group was founded in response to failed attempts by bodies such as Network Rail, Transport Scotland, AECOM, DB Shenker, Scottish Power, Scottish Coal, Clackmannanshire Council and the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee to make any significant progress with the noise and vibration impact from coal freight trains.
After nearly four years of letters and meetings, during a day of torrential rain and flooding in late November 2011, petition PE1273 was closed down. The Scottish Parliament announced that neither itself nor Network Rail had the power to control freight trains on Scotland’s Railways. Apparently no one has.
Environmental problems such as noise and vibration, come under the jurisdiction of local council environmental health departments. Stirling Council sought legal advice from a professor of environmental law and was informed that it would be unlikely to win if it took the issue to court. The same professor advised that residents did have legal avenues, one of these being human rights legislation.
Since the Scottish Government and the regulatory bodies and a host of private companies had, over a period of four years, declared themselve either unable or unwilling to protect citizens from harmful levels of noise and vibration, it remained for the residents to protect themselves. NVAG was formed.