Noise sources associated with the operation of trains and rail infrastructure include wheel squeal, flanging and idling. Such noise sources can cause noise and vibration effects which may result in nuisance and annoyance for occupants of nearby residential and other sensitive land uses.
EPA’s role in relation to rail noise and assessing rail noise
It is EPA’s role to ensure noise from the operation of rail infrastructure, in particular wheel squeal, is kept as low as possible without adversely impacting on rail activities in the state.
The Guidelines for the assessment of noise from rail infrastructure outlines the approaches to assessing noise and vibration from new or upgraded railways as well as for new noise sensitive developments near railway lines.
The guidelines cover:
- Regulatory requirements for railway owners, rolling-stock operators and relevant developers.
- Noise and vibration criteria for purpose of the development assessment and compliance.
- Recommended noise and vibration prediction routines.
- Recommended noise and vibration measurement practices.
- An outline of rail noise and vibration mitigation practices.
If sensitive land development is being considered adjacent or near an existing railway, the development may be exposed to rail noise. In these circumstances, developers should consider locating or designing residential development to achieve the relevant noise criteria contained in the guidelines.
The EPA licenses railway operations, meaning that the operators must comply with licence conditions set down by the EPA. The track owner and rail operators work together to identify the main causes of wheel squeal and determine what can be done to reduce it.
The EPA shares the concerns of the community with regard to excessive rail noise. If you report an incident to the EPA, the details of the incident will be recorded into the EPA complaints and enquiries database.
The EPA continues to utilise the powers afforded to it under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to ensure that both the track owner and rolling stock operators are compliant with licence conditions and meet their obligation to do everything reasonable and practicable to minimise their environmental impact.
|Wheel squeal||High pitched noise that can occur as trains travel on curved sections of a track due to the friction between the steel wheel and the top of the steel rail. This occurs from wheels slipping laterally on the rail head causing noise that is usually louder and more annoying than other types of train noise.|
|Flanging||When the flange of the wheels rubs against the face of the rail head, the vibration generates intermittent noise and can range across a broad frequency and vary in intensity.|
|Idling||Mainly associated with diesel freight locomotives when stationary at passing loops or rail yards.|
|Train horns||Drivers of locomotives are required by law to sound their warning devices at level crossings and other points along the track for safety. This is done so that people at pedestrian and level crossings who are not protected by other warning devices can be warned of an approaching train. Drivers will also sound their warning devices to alert track workers in the corridor. Due to safety requirements, these soundings can occur at inconvenient times for the local community. The regulation of the timing and noise from train horns is outside the jurisdiction of the EPA.|
Construction and rail maintenance noise
Night-time works are sometimes necessary due to essential maintenance works required on the railway line that can only be achieved when train/tram services are not operating. Employees undertaking the works are instructed to ensure that all reasonable and practicable measures are taken to minimise noise.
If night-time works are expected in close proximity to you, then you should receive a notification letter from the individual operator and/or contractor carrying out the works to advise you of dates/times and potential known noises associated with the works. Please note that no notification is required for works undertaken during the day.
An EPA licence is required to undertake new construction works and not for general maintenance. Prior to undertaking new railway works, licensees must submit an environmental management plan to demonstrate their commitment in minimising impacts to the receiving environment.
Who to contact regarding rail noise
|Train horns, pedestrian crossings||Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, Rail safety issues, tel: 1300 360 067
|Engine/idling noise or wheel squeal||Train operators|