Information published on 1 December 2021 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

Nuisance and health impact of noise

  • Health
  • Noise
  • Nuisance
  • Promoting
  • Sustainability
  • Vibrations

Noise causes stress and is particularly damaging over prolonged periods of time with little or no controls in place. There is growing evidence that noise pollution can have adverse psychosocial and physiological effects on human health and the environment. In the context of increasing urbanisation and mobility, it is essential that sustainable transport systems be designed that consider these effects and seek ways to reduce and prevent them.

Noise reduction at source is the most effective approach. Together with its members in the Noise and Vibration (NV) Sector, UIC works tirelessly to take preventive and mitigation measures to reduce noise emissions caused by railway operations and infrastructure. The railway sector continues to conduct a number of joint studies with the aim of better understanding and controlling railway noise and increasing information-sharing through UIC’s international platform.

Collaboration with Atkins
The UIC Noise and Vibration Sector recognises that there have been significant technological and process improvements in rail that have reduced noise emitted from railways, but the number of complaints from lineside neighbours nevertheless continues to grow. To better understand and manage the causes for complaints, a deeper analysis of the subjective human nuisance effect of railway noise is required. UIC is pleased to announce that work on a new scoping study has begun and a contract has been signed with Atkins (https://www.atkinsglobal.com), with a technical report expected in autumn 2022.

The study aims to assist all stakeholders in meeting the challenges faced by the sector by analysing and collating information to be gathered from the relevant members by online survey. The final deliverable will be disseminated at the UIC Railway Noise Days in 2023. Some research has already been undertaken on the health effects of noise and how best to assess noise impacts from railways in this context. This includes work undertaken by the World Health Organization and previous studies published by UIC; however, further work is required to establish knowledge gaps. The study will consider methods for measuring health-related noise impacts using monetary indicators, and will examine the nature of noise complaints made to UIC members and how such complaints were resolved.

What will UIC and Atkins be working on?
The new scoping study aims to critically evaluate the nuisance and health effects of railway noise from conventional passenger, freight and high-speed services in the international railway community with reference to existing scientific research and information collected from UIC members. The project’s objectives are to:

  • obtain a representative picture of the nuisance effect of rail noise and its impact on human health in European railways in 2021 and prepare a proposal to determine the next steps and to make suggestions for the global railway community.
  • provide evidence of the impact of noise nuisance on human health for UIC participation in European Commission meetings with the aim of informing EU or national governments’ funding and legislation decisions.

While the project has begun with a focus on Europe, input and learning from all over the world is very welcome. To achieve its objectives, UIC has established a steering group of experts who will lead the work within the sector while also working closely with Atkins.

Now is the time to join us and share your noise complaints
UIC would like to collect information on noise complaints associated with the operation and maintenance of railways through an online survey.

Noise complaints from construction activities, depots, and fixed sources at stations such as public address systems, idling trains, heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems will be excluded from the scope of this study.

Participants will have the chance to increase knowledge-sharing and develop solutions by sharing the issues that prompt the most noise complaints in their networks with other experts, as well as solutions to such issues. The aim is that the relevant experts will work together with UIC and Atkins both by participating in the survey and supporting the meetings to be held during the results evaluation stage.

The survey will close on 21 January 2022. To complete it, please visit https://uic.org/events/railway-noise-complaints

For further information, please contact Pinar Yilmazer, UIC Senior Advisor for the Noise and Vibration Sector, at noisevibration@uic.org