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’
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
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 email@example.com
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.
At a full Stirling Council meeting on 28th Feb 2013, the council approved a noise and vibration working group as one of the items on a busy agenda. An amendment was approved that changed both the timescale of the working group to 6 months and revised the membership. The working group now consists of the environment portfolio holder, Councillor Danny Gibson, and the three Councillors of the Castle Ward: Councillor Johanna Boyd, Councillor Jim Thompson and Councillor John Hendry. The remit focuses mostly on the problem of the SAK line although it will also look at the wider issues of rail noise and vibration.
Thanks goes to Councillor Mark Russel who suggested the formation of a working group as a way forwards during the Petition Panel consideration stage. Although not on the working group he is interested in its progress and has asked to be kept informed
NVAG welcome the creation of this group and are keen that the Councillors take on board the views of residents impacted by the noise and vibration and take measures to find an effective resolution to this five year old problem. Indications are that the group will call on locals, NVAG, Forth Valley Health Board and other bodies such as the rail operators and government agencies.
NVAG would like to thank those residents who went to the trouble of collecting signatures that made this petition viable and also to Zara Kitson, who, although not a line side resident, suggested the petition at one of NVAG’s first meetings in 2012, and who spoke on its behalf at the petition panel hearing last month.
This is a positive step by Stirling Council for both democracy and accountability. When will Clackmannanshire Council follow this example and introduce a petition system so that hard-hit residents under its care have a voice in the democratic process?
A McIver, 5th Mar 2013
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: