An Important Day in Railway Legal History
On the 15th of March 2016, in Stirling Sheriff Court, two rail haulage companies, DB Shenker and Freightliner, will be appealing against an abatement order served by Stirling Council.
Whilst Stirling Council are attempting to protect the health of the general public by stopping noise and vibration at high levels during the night, the freight haulage companies, are expected to argue that UK law and ‘statutory authority’ gives them the right to run their operations (and thus pollute UK residents regardless of impact) without regulation or restriction.
The Lack of Responsibility Within UK Rail.
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 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
The previous link to the environmental pollution action request form stopped working and has been replaced with the link below. Click on the link at the bottom of this page and your computer will download a UK Environmental Health complaint form in PDF format for you to fill in and send to your local Council.
The form asks the Council to:
• investigate your complaint
.•decide if the pollution is a statutory nuisance
•if so, to serve an abatement order
•to inform you of decisions and outcomes
Please do not worry about filling in all of the areas. They essential parts are to tell the council the type of pollution (noise, vibration etc), the source (trains), and to give your name address. The rest is all optional.
Forms should be sent/handed in to the Council Environmental Health Department.
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.
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.”
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact our 24 hour press office on:
Tel: 07887 687318
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