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’
1 It is a fundamental human right of individuals, communities, cities and nations that they be able to live without the blight of noise pollution.
2 Noise pollution must be controlled to levels that:
•Do not harm health
•That allow normal functioning, well being and development
•That allow adequate duration and quality of sleep (8 hrs adult , 10-12 hrs children)
3 The ‘polluter pays principle’ should be upheld at all times, ie those responsible for creating or who benefit from the process that generates the pollution should bear the cost of taking measures to address it.
4 The ‘precautionary principle’ should be upheld, ie where there is reason to believe that noise or vibration might be harmful, the onus is on those who generate such emissions to prove, with independent verification, that the levels are not harmful or detrimental to health, well-being or sleep.
5 The public should be made aware of the risks from noise pollution through public health bodies and health and well being media outlets.
6 Medical professionals and environmental regulators should be educated on the risks, symptoms and illnesses that result from noise pollution and of the exposure levels at which these occur.
7 Bodies responsible for environmental standards
or quality of life should act in an effective and timeous manner to ensure these are achieved.
8 Inadequate resources such as insufficient staffing, funding or legislative powers may result in an organization or individual being unable to fulfill their role in regulating or addressing issues of noise pollution or vibration. Where this is the case, all persons responsible must formally notify pertinent senior persons or bodies, including the government and health organizations, of their inability to act effectively and the consequences for the affected population.
9 Legal action must be taken wherever possible against individuals or organizations whose actions or failure to act (such as neglect of duty to monitor or regulate), result in the emission of noise pollution that is prejudicial to health, undermine well-being or breach human rights.
10 Vested interests such as persons whose activities, membership, employment are related to the generation of noise pollution should not have any representation on committees, boards or advisory groups whose role is to maintain health, protect the environment or represent the interests of the community who may be subjected to the noise pollution.
11 Impartiality of data and advice or other expertise is essential. This necessitates that consultants or experts who act in the interests of clients who produce noise pollution are not at any point employed in the regulation or assessment of noise pollution, or the development of standards or policies.¹
Why this manifesto?Noise pollution has a highly negative impact on humans and other organisms and causes significant harm to the natural and social environment. Those against it are asked to distribute this manifesto and, wherever possible, to raise awareness, take action or make representation to reduce or eliminate this pollution both for themselves and for others
Definition: Noise pollution is any noise or vibration, audible or inaudible (eg infra sound) , that is introduced by artificial means into the environment that causes harm, discomfort, .
Background: Noise pollution is widespread and increasing and is being generated in the name of ‘progress’ and to serve commercial priorities. The impact includes heart disease, high blood pressure, tinnitus, stress-related illnesses, developmental problems in children and, through sleep deprivation, lower immunity, obesity, inflammation of joints, aggression, deterioration in judgement, coordination and reaction time, inability to memorize, increased susceptibility to accidents. Advised limits, including exposure-dose response relationships have been documented in World Health Organization publications in 1995, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011. These are based on peer-reviewed studies and give increasingly adamant warnings of the need for controlling this pollution.
Posted from WordPress for Android
The Office of rail regulation responded to this article as follows.
‘Thanks for your letter and blog post: understand your points and will reply soon.@railregulation‘
The response will be posted on NVAG. END OF UPDATE
Roles- Who Regulates Noise Pollution& Vibration Emitted by UK Railways?
Is it Richard Price, CEO of the UK Office of Rail Regulation? Or the team of ORR executive directors listed here.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), and sustainability are high profile for any organization of good standing. For a publicly-funded body, a body responsible to government and public, a body that regulates national infrastructure, one would have thought CSR and sustainability would be the bread and butter of what they do. On the basis that ORR and the rail operators should act in a socially responsible manner, have a look at this ORR infographic of Network Rail targets for 2019 (this graphic was produced by ORR, not NVAG).
Anything Missing ?
There’s plenty in the infographic on increasing capacity, improving the network, reliable trains, maintenance, cutting costs . . . but what about CSR and sustainability?
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.
Stirling Council have agreed to:
- undertake noise and vibration surveys
- if levels are above acceptable thresholds, to commission independent legal advice
- to decide on enforcement action based on the above
Councillor Danny Gibson, chairperson of Stirling Council’s rail noise and vibration working group, a group that has received cross-party support, issued a statement of the group’s decision. Continue reading
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.
“What do you consider to be the most urgent human rights issues which should be addressed in Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights?” Question by Scottish Human Rights Commission, SHRC, as part of consultation.
Response by NVAG to SHRC: The right to health, peaceful enjoyment of ones home and to the fundamental human needs of sleep and good health are currently being actively denied to many thousands of Scottish residents.
The consequences of noise exposure has been published by the World Health Organization in 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011. In the last publication, Burden of disease from environmental noise. Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, noise was upgraded to the environmental pollutant with the second highest burden of disease in Western Europe. It also noted, that whilst other pollutants are being tackled and the impact decreasing, harm from noise is increasing. On the railways much of this comes from increasing levels of night freight. On one line surveyed, ten to fifteen trains run between 23.00 and 07.00. This appears typical. Children are exposed to significantly more train passes due to their longer sleep requirements.
Key bodies in Scotland refuse to acknowledge scientific and medical evidence regarding noise and vibration exposure for residents and the need to protect against chronic sleep deprivation.
The Scottish Government, through one of its agencies, Transport Scotland, promotes high noise- level standards for night rail traffic that bear no relation to any modern health standards. Their argument, based on a 20yr old report, is that it is appropriate to allow unlimited levels of noise, twice an hour (in excess of 82dBLamax) during the night without mitigation for residents. This contradicts all modern health standards and defies common experience: loud noise wakens people. Official noise assessments show levels are four times louder than the 60dBLamax level at which the WHO advises conscious awakenings start to occur. The result, not surprisingly, is repeated awakening by residents and chronic sleep deprivation.
Network Rail has a policy of running trains 24/7 and claims that it is unable to refuse freight access if paths are available on the line. It also refuses to accept any responsibility for noise or vibration exposure to residents. Repeated enquiries to NR eventually ascertained that they acknowledge no noise or vibration standards. Regardless of how high the exposure to residents, NR does not regard it as a fault or a reason to cease operating. NR were asked as to what residents should do, when, having been woken repeatedly night after night, they are faced with driving, operating machinery, or performing tasks that require concentration, judgment or responsibility. Do they put themselves and others at risk or phone in sick? Network Rail refused to advise. Residents have to make that choice.
The Office of Rail Regulation requires Network Rail to have a sustainability policy but emphasizes that they do not do environmental monitoring and that the local authority are the body charged with dealing with environmental health problems.
Local authorities deal with domestic noise issues but are extremely reluctant to do so for noise or vibration from bodies who have statutory authority. In one instance in Scotland, on a modern railway line, where standards in the Environmental Statement approved by Parliament are being exceeded every night, repeated requests by residents to serve noise abatement orders have been refused. The environmental health officers said that they’d taken legal advice and had been told that they’d have no chance of winning if they took the case to court. Instead of a court deciding, the decision was made without the chance of those afflicted to present evidence, based, not on the consideration of a judge but on the advice of an anonymous expert, with no record taken of the discussion or points made and no public or independent scrutiny.
Many public health officers and even doctors in the UK are not aware of the problems caused by noise and sleep deprivation. This is surprising. A huge amount of detailed analysis and documented evidence has been published by the WHO over the past 14years; many internationally-recognized research groups, University-based, have presented studies. The public, however, are largely unaware of the impact of noise beyond that of damage to hearing and presume wrongly that they are not harmed if they ‘get used to’ the levels of noise. The WHO advises of stress, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, physiological, psychological and social deterioration. A Cambridge study in 2013 found that sleep deprivation for just one week caused several hundred changes in the DNA of the human body. A study into HIV immunization in the USA IN 2012 found, as have several other studies, that sleep deprivation has a highly adverse impact on the immune system. The British Medical Journal states that there is now no doubt that sleep deprivation has a serious impact on health. Children are worst affected and suffer significant developmental and educational issues in addition to the health problems.
The noise and vibration pollution caused by traffic can be difficult to attribute but for railways it is both attributable and systematic in nature. Studies of parliamentary and business communication (FOISA) indicate that ignoring or downplaying the issue is part of a deliberate policy by promoters, often the Government working with private companies, and operators, to avoid the cost of providing protection from the noise and vibration they produce. Mitigation measures are available and are employed widely in the EU. When asked to apply practices or measures by petitions committee PE1273 at the Scottish Parliament during 2009-2011 the response from the organizations involved was that it was not commercially viable. It is viable in mainland EU.
A framework of complaint bodies and regulations exist but, whilst some daytime noise issues are addressed, night noise is almost unregulated. The public are left to suffer. If a corporation were to release toxins or ionizing radiation into residents’ homes at levels far exceeding those advised by health bodies to prevent physiological, psychological and behavioural problems, there would be immediate action and prosecutions. Strangely, once the label ‘noise’ is added, there is intransigence, disbelief, denial of medical evidence, failure to monitor and refusal to apply legal measures. What is particularly insidious is that there is no escape for residents: this is a pollutant that relentlessly penetrates their homes, their place of rest and refuge; they are subjected to this in the commercial interests of the polluters.
[Please note: this is the case put by NVAG for consideration by SHRC. SHRC is not affiliated or in any way connected to NVAG ].
Stirling Council’s new Petition Panel, chaired by Councilor Steven Paterson were presented with a petition asking the council to take action on the noise and vibration from trains that is afflicting residents in the Council’s area. Archie McIver and Zara Kitson, who presented the petition, outlined the many promises and assurances that had been made then ignored by the promoters of the Stirling Alloa Kincardine rail line, SAK. It was described how Transport Scotland’s approach to the public had been not only duplicitous, but highly inconsistent and that they displayed complete disregard for health-based standards and the well-being of residents. The case was put that right across Stirling, not just on SAK, many residents were being exposed to noise levels that far exceed any modern standards and that vibration levels that were causing serious distress had not been adequately measured or addressed.
There was a good deal of pertinent questioning and support from the councilors present. Jim Thompson spoke about his involvement in Causewayhead Community Council at the time, their objections to Parliament and the manner in which they had been deceived. Mark Russel expressed disappointment at the situation; he had been involved in the process of approval of the SAK line whilst an MSP in Scottish Parliament.
Valid points were made by other Councilors. Corrie McChord asked as to whether advice on the Council taking legal action had been provided by a QC. Apparently it had not.
The Councilors agreed to a proposal that a working group be set up to address this issue. This will be put to to the Council’s Planning and Regulation Panel for consideration on 29th Feb 2013.
Link to Stirling Council website:
Keith Brown claimed in a Parliamentary response about a Scottish rail line, that the government were dealing with noise and vibration in accordance with the standards presented to Public and Parliament. [The standard being referred to were in the 2003 Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine Railway Environmental Statement].
Strange! The Minster was asked last week, in person, to keep that promise, to actually apply those very same standards. He didn’t respond with a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, his response was to the effect that it depends on how one interprets those standards.
Huh? The standards are there, WHO Guidelines, BS8233, modern, health-based standards that are fully explained in public documents for anyone who cares to read them. What’s to interpret?
A clue comes later in a second Parliamentary response he made about the basis for the criteria being applied. He advised that they were using a defunct, 20 year-old DGB Mitchell Report [but didn’t use the term ‘defunct’ or 20 yr-old]. This he advised, was the basis for the criteria they were using.
None of this ties up. The Mitchell Report is out of date, doesn’t address health issues is ignorant of two decades of medical research and has nothing to do with the modern standards in the ES statement that he said was being applied. The Mitchell Report doesn’t even merit a mention in long appendix of reference reports compiled at the back. So we have modern, WHO and BS8233 health-based standards for night noise and vibration, right there in the Environmental Statement, black and white, standards Mr Brown and Transport Scotland gloss over or simply can’t find . . . yet, strangely, Mr Brown had no trouble finding a standard that wasn’t in the Environmental Statement. How bizarre!! .
The truth? Transport Scotland, with Keith Brown’s approval, has been avidly applying an outdated, health-damaging, 82dB Lamax night noise standard from the old Mitchell Report to a raft of new infrastructure projects across the country. It saves money for Transport Scotland because they don’t have to fund night noise mitigation and it give carte blanche to any company who has no qualms about emitting noise pollution but has qualms about cleaning it up. Unfortunately the public, get the dirty side of the deal: chronic sleep deprivation, high levels of stress, ischemic heart disease, physical, psychological and social deterioration and poor and delayed development in children.
What now? Keith Brown needs to take a hard look at what he means by interpreting standards. If that means ignoring what was clearly presented to Parliament, was vowed to be upheld, was used as evidence in order to win approval for the bill, then that’s not ‘interpreting’. If it means drafting in a standard that wasn’t presented, a standard that comes from other projects, a standard that stretches back into the mists of time, then, no, that’s not interpreting. It’s something else, something rather odious and somewhat less palatable,
This is a real issue, not only for those who suffer the relentless day and night impact of noise and vibration on this line, but for the whole country. When the printed, documented standards in an official report are being ignored, ‘interpreted’, swapped for something completely different, we have to ask —what does that say about the standards of the organization applying them?
This article and all views and opinions contained, are those of Archie McIver, Chairperson of NVAG. 7 Nov 2012