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Action on Noise?

posted Sep 1, 2012, 6:06 PM by Site Editor   [ updated Sep 1, 2012, 6:15 PM ]
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 corridors.

  • 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.