Noisy idlers

Trains often keep their engines running even when parked in the sidings
Trains often keep their engines running even when parked in the sidings

Investigation on train nuisance

Posted - April 15, 2018

Over the years, there have been a number of complaints from residents who live near the trains lines about excess noise caused by idling trains in the railway sidings. For example in the winter, it seems that the engines may kept running to avoid having to start from cold. The City Council has been looking into this and have issued the following statement

“Oxford City Council is carrying out an investigation into whether the noise from use of the Sidings is an actionable statutory nuisance. In order to do this we have to establish what effects the idling trains have, on who and for how long. However, this is a complex investigation because:

  • there is a large number of residents, yet a relatively small number have complained to us;
  • the pattern of idling train operations has changed several times and is set to change further, thereby changing the likely effects on people;
  • the law on statutory nuisance enforcement against railway operators is less straightforward than for most other commercial activities and there are few examples of enforcement action tested in the Courts;

“Network Rail and Great Western Railways have actively engaged with Council officers and residents, maintaining that they are trying to minimise noise impact. Some of their actions, including getting a noise assessment by Southampton University (which hopefully will shed more light on how sound is being generated, transmitted and may be attenuated) are due to take place this/next month.

“These factors have slowed the progress of our investigation though don’t mean that it has stopped or will stop. We have been gathering first-hand accounts from some residents, have taken our own sound measurements in one “northern” property and have liaised with Network Rail and Great Western Railways (GWR) about their practices and plans for the future.

“Our investigation is still underway as there is a lot of information to take into account, including changes to those practices and plans. We recently delivered questionnaires to every property in William Lucy Way (WLW), asking residents to contact us. Several have responded though representation from some parts of WLW is less than expected given the similar distance to the tracks from all properties. Finally, because of the lack of case precedents we are liasing with other Councils, including Reading BC who have an active case against Network Rail and GWR concerning the railway maintenance depot in Reading.

“For the above reasons I am unable to say when we will conclude our investigation, though can assure all concerned that the case remains a high priority for the Council.”

David Stevens, Planning Sustainable Development and Regulatory Services, Oxford City Council.

For further information on this issue, residents can contact their city councillors.


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