The Court Case Result
In Stirling sheriff court, on the 26th of April 2016, it was confirmed that coal freight movements had stopped and would not resume. As a result, Stirling Council withdrew the statutory nuisance abatement order served on DB Shenker and Freightliner in December 2015. There was no longer any need for them to appeal.
Why the Shaking Stopped
The noise and vibration of the coal freight wagons was sufficient to damage the glass canopies in Stirling station, according to a Network Rail spokesperson. Rail chiefs said this station was being damaged by freight(see news report) . Network Rail managers showed little sign of concern that the physical pollutants that were damaging their own infrastructure were undermining the health and sleep of those living next to the line.
The coal freight came to an end. It might seem, at a glance, like an amicable agreement had been reached, but all is not as it seems.
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’
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.
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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?
After the Damning Report on Rail Noise & Vibration . . .
Network Rail have been sent a copy of the report that documents the high night rail noise and vibration levels recorded by consultants, Sandy Brown Associates. The report concludes that such exposure constitutes a statutory nuisance.
Network Rail run the UK rail network and claim in their sustainability policy that they manage noise and vibration. Currently their management system has seen night noise one metre outside bedroom windows reach levels eight times louder than the maximum advised by the World Health Organization.
Perhaps change is in the air.
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.
Whilst construction work was ongoing (building new bridge for electrification, EGIP prog), train speeds in certain areas was lower than normal. Now the lengthy construction work is done, we’d like to know if:
a) train speeds are back to normal
b) what difference if any the lower speeds made to noise and vibration levels.
The rail companies argued at the Scottish Parliament that they couldn’t impose speed restrictions on rail traffic to reduce noise and vibration for residents yet when it became important for the operators, ie when they were engaged in engineering works, they had no difficulty imposing speed restrictions for the best part of a year.
Best Practical Means
This is important. Rail companies can defend themselves from legal action resulting from environmental pollution by claiming that they employ ‘best practicable means’, BPM, to limit emissions or the level of exposure for residents. Do they? The rail operators might argue that they use BPM for maintaining and running the lines, but can they say the same for protecting residents? We don’t think they can. There are many practical methods for limiting rail noise and vibration levels (BPM), methods that are already considered standard and are used in other countries, methods that could be implemented by rail operators in the UK. We see little sign of these being applied here except, perhaps, in a few high-profile situations.
Did the slower speeds help? Are speeds back to pre-construction works level? Email us at email@example.com about changes in noise and vibration levels in your area.
A McI, NVAG Chair.
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