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.
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
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.