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.
Following Legal Advice, Stirling Council is to Take Enforcement Action on Rail Noise and Vibration
Stirling Council is to come to the rescue of line side residents who, following the opening of the SAK Railway line in 2008, have been left with broken promises and high levels of noise and vibration.
A report commissioned by the Council in late 2014 found that night time noise levels outside resident’s homes constituted a statutory nuisance and that vibration levels at some properties was excessive. Network Rail and the freight operators have continued to run heavy night freight despite pleas, complaints and even written requests from the Scottish Parliament in attempts find a solution.
Now, thanks to the support of elected politicians, there is hope that enforcement orders will protect the health and well being of those affected by these forms of railway pollution.
Protecting the Heart of Scotland
Stirling, due to its central position and strong transport connections, is considered by many to be ‘the heart of Scotland’
Rail Pollution-Legal Action?
In a report commissioned by Stirling Council, Noise and Vibration Consultants, Sandy Brown Associates, reported that night noise levels were, in their opinion, a ‘statutory nuisance’. A Statutory nuisance is a legal term for pollution that is judged to be a ‘nuisance’ or ‘prejudicial to health’. Once classified as a ‘statutory nuisance’, UK environmental law says abatement orders should be served (EPA1990,sec79,80).
Link to railway noise vibration report
How Bad Is It?
Noise at four out of five sample residential locations was
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.
A legal advice and railway noise and vibration information session has been set up. Anyone suffering from the impact of the trains, concerned about their health or the devaluation of their property may find it useful to find out:
- what the new Noise Vibration Action Group are doing
- why the government and private companies have not yet acted
- the legal position from an award winning firm of lawyers.
This is open to the public, there’s no fee, no commitment, and you do not need to be a NVAG member. The meetings will include a question and answer session. To ensure you have a seat, it’s advisable to contact us using the contact details in our contact page. The venue is the Raploch Community Campus (new, large glass-fronted building). Meeting times: 7pm, Fri the 29th of June.
[The 7pm time was a near unanimous request, but anyone coming for proposed 8.15pm slot, come in, stay on and we will cover key issues] .
Parking is behind the Campus building and is accessed via the Stirling City or east side of the building. Come along. We are sure you’ll find it interesting. Location
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.