The Department of Transport has released their Draft Passenger Rail Noise Infrastructure Policy (PDF).
We welcome the new noise policy and we
urge the government to commit to implementing noise-abatement
measures as part of the RRL project. At this time, there has been no
formal commitment to undertake any noise abatement work.
For people new to this discussion, the Footscray community is supportive of the RRL project - we support rail expansion. However, we don't want to see our community damaged as a result. We are asking for nothing more than is already provided for major roads and freeways. Noise control measure are implemented as a matter of course for road projects - so why not for rail corridors too? Surely a 5 billion dollar project can cover the cost of noise mitigation? We would be pleased to see the RRL project hailed as an exemplar project in respect of noise management, forging a path for future rail expansion in Victoria without compromising the health and amenity of rail corridor communities.
Our preliminary response to the draft policy:
- The inclusion of specific decibel
triggers (based on the NSW rail noise standards) is a positive
development. However, we note that Victoria will only implement
non-binding 'noise principles' policy instead of falling into line
with other states by legislating proper noise standards for rail
- The policy hinges on the modelling of
anticipated noise levels. Noise abatement measures will considered
only if certain decibel triggers are liely to be reached. We are
concerned that this is open to 'fiddling', where government will
mention the maximum traffic capacity in touting a new project to the
public, but downgrade traffic numbers later for the purposes of noise
estimates. This has already occurred with RRL, where rail traffic
estimates used in noise assessments were lower than numbers
originally touted by government. To prevent this, noise levels must
be assessed on the maximum carrying capacity proposed.
- The policy currently contains no
specific action targets for when decibel limits are triggered. The
policy should specify noise reduction amounts in this situation. For
example, the target might be that noise be reduced at or below
previous levels. The policy is unclear on what action will be taken
for situations where noise levels are already above the proposed
trigger levels - as it is for most of the Footscray corridor.
- The policy allows a 2-3 decibel noise
increase for each project - over the trigger levels. If multiple
projects are undertaken on the corridor, each may be allowed a
separate 2-3 decibel increase. However there is no total cap on these
increases. It is conceivable that 'noise-creep' from multiple
projects could see total noise levels exceed any reasonable standard.
- The policy attempts to treat rail
corridor noise on a per-project basis. This arbitrary
slicing-and-dicing of rail corridor noise makes little sense in the
real world. People living and working near rail corridors hear the
total corridor noise. They don't differentiate noise levels by
project or service. We urge the government to take a
'whole-of-corridor' approach to noise management.