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’
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.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING:
Anne Massie Sept 2013:
“I had a visit yesterday from Lynn Parsler from Clackmannanshire Environmental Health. She is very sympathetic to what we have suffered over the last five years and will do what she can if she obtains information, but she confirmed what Archie and I have been saying. If you don’t fill in a complaints form and ask her to visit to see your own individual circumstances she can do nothing. She needs to build up an accurate picture of what has been happening and how it has affected our individual lives. The same will apply to other Councils.
She asked me if the trains remained at 10mph past my house would I be able to tolerate that and I said definitely. That may not be the case with other homes – each one will be different. I have mitigation fencing, a tidy garden, much less noise, no vibration – I have little need to complain further (other than possible financial recompense if that is possible) – if I keep going on this it is for YOU!
Lynn has visited four homes in Clackmannanshire, but I am sure there are an awful lot more who should be complaining. Remember you can get used to noise but any levels above 60dba can harm your health. I emphasised that to Lynn. She also looked at the houses in Brucefield Crescent and saw that one had fencing along the line and 5 others did not. She agreed there was no logic in that regardless of any scientific models they prepare.
The noise and vibration is much less where I live in Clackmannan at the moment due to lower speeds while they make track repairs, and also in some other sections along the line; but this will cease very soon and the speeds will be back to normal – 35mph here and 60 to 70mph in some areas. The higher the speed the shorter the time for the train to pass, but the louder the noise and the heavier the vibration.
She is very sympathetic to what we have suffered over the last five years and will do what she can if she obtains information, but she confirmed what Archie and I have been saying. If you don’t fill in a complaints form and ask her to visit to see your own individual circumstances she can do nothing. She needs to build up an accurate picture of what has been happening and how it has affected our individual lives. The same will apply to other Councils.”
Unless you have informed the Council, they take the view that you do not have a problem. The form takes about 5 minutes. Link to the complaint form.
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.
PRESS RELEASE by Thompson’s Solicitors
For immediate release: 10:00hrs, 23rd November 2012
Families hopes of peace and quiet dashed by Transport Minister
No further testing for night noise and vibration to be carried out on Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line
Families who live close to the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line whose lives are being blighted by noise and vibration caused by overnight freight have had hopes for a solution dashed.
A series of Parliamentary questions tabled by Dr Richard Simpson, the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, probed the Scottish Government on the situation following the introduction of night freight on the line which residents had been led to believe wouldn’t happen. The questions asked for details of testing for noise and vibration at residential properties along the line and about standards used to decide on mitigation measures.
Among the answers the Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP stated that vibration measurements had been concluded and that following repeated noise testing no additional properties would be tested for the first time. He also admitted that in reaching it’s conclusion regarding mitigation for properties along the line only four properties had actually been tested for vibration and just 11 for noise levels.
Campaigners claim the Scottish Government is refusing to protect them from the health risks associated with noise and that the Government has based this refusal on a 20 year old report which was commissioned to look at noise as a nuisance. They also claim that two decades of medical research that warn of chronic ill-health, sleep deprivation and stress are being ignored.
Chairman of the Noise Vibration Action Group Archie McIver has accused the Scottish Government of digging its heels in on the issue and said: “By using a defunct, 20 year-old standard called the Mitchell Report, the Scottish Government is refusing to protect line-side families from the harmful impact of night-time train noise.
“There has been a total disregard for the health of people like myself and others who have to deal with interrupted sleep night after night, and the constant daily stress of being bombarded by noise. The financial loss of value to our property is tens of thousands of pounds but this is nothing compared to the struggle to work and to function in a sleep-deprived state. Driving is something we increasingly avoid because of the high risk.”
Thompsons Partner Patrick McGuire said: “The Scottish Government’s latest position on addressing the issue of overnight noise and vibration on the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line is frankly not good enough. These families were told that the line would not be used for night freight and not only was this complete nonsense but there seems to be no appetite whatsoever to resolve the problem which is causing sleep deprivation and knock on health issues as a result for a large number of people”.
Commenting on the Ministers responses Dr Simpson MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, a former GP and Psychiatrist said: “The fact that this SNP Government and the Minister who is also a local MSP choose to ignore the suffering of many of my constituents shows a complacency which is uncaring in the extreme.
The designation threshold for night time noise nuisance of 82db noise level and occurring more than once per hour means that these night coal trains can never be deemed a disturbance as they are always less frequent than hourly. The Minister and Transport Scotland officials should try sleeping at night in the affected households. It is a shameful disregard for the health and well being of those affected.”
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