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.