Noise from railway sidings in the new Environment Act
It is always difficult to explain that, under current legislation, the noise of a particular train in a timetable is covered by certain standards and calculation and measurement methods, but the noise of the same train outside the timetable is covered by industrial noise with other standards and calculation and measurement methods. The new Environmental Act aims to make environmental law more transparent for citizens, companies and governments. It is logical that one of the intended changes is to eliminate this unclear situation for noise on railway sidings. New regulations are in the works, witness the draft text for the “Noise Supplement to the Environment Act”.
What is going to change?
In short, the noise from trains will be included in the noise production ceilings and will no be longer assessed separately. The remaining noise in railway sidings (for example from the maintenance and cleaning of trains) will continue to be subject to the industrial noise regime.
Where do you read that?
In the draft text for the Noise Supplement Decree, Article 3.26 (determining noise from roads and railways) states:
When determining the noise of a main railway, the noise of trains on railway sidings is taken into account.
The Explanatory Memorandum is very clear on the rationale behind this article:
The intention is to change this because it makes sense to bring all trains under the same noise assessment system.
In Article 3.25 (acoustic quality of national motorways and main railways), just before that, it says:
The manager [...] shall ensure that for main railways for which noise production ceilings have been established: a) when constructing or replacing a superstructure of a railway, that superstructure construction consists of long-welded track in a ballast bed on concrete sleepers or at least one acoustic equivalent superstructure construction, unless major objections of a technical nature dictate otherwise; and b) all bogies and switches on railway sidings that affect the noise on noise-sensitive buildings have a working rail conditioning system.The Explanatory Memorandum states that part b) concerns bogies and switches on sidings, that these must be fitted with rail conditioning as standard, and that these installations must also be kept in operation. However, this is only necessary for bogies and switches that are relevant for the noise that affects noise-sensitive buildings and that the manager must make that assessment.
What does this mean in practice?
- In future, the noise from the train will be assessed and monitored in one way, namely via noise production ceilings for the railways;
- The noise from other activities on the railway sidings, such as the use of a refuelling system, a washing installation and the workshop, continues to fall under the industrial noise regime;
- Wherever it causes relevant nuisance, the bogie noise on sidings will be suppressed as much as possible with special installations (the so-called rail conditioning systems). They must not only be put in place, they must also be effective and work. Since ProRail and NS are currently experimenting with the application of wheel-rail conditioning to tackle bogie noise, it is expected that this method could also be given a place in the law as acoustically equivalent here.
The law is still under development and some work remains to be done. The basic principle when introducing the Environment Act is that the level of protection (against the adverse effects of noise) remains guaranteed. For ProRail and the ministry, we examined which subjects should receive attention to ensure this. We have made recommendations for the follow-up process; for example, to answer questions such as: how is the noise from stationary trains included in the noise production ceilings? And does the through-track calculation actually work well at the low speeds at which trains run on railway sidings? This requires thorough research, which is currently in full swing, and M+P is involved in this again.