Rail traffic

Noise pollution and sleep disturbance

Noise in our residential environment leads above all to irritation and sleep disturbance. Many railways have become busier in recent years which means increasing noise levels and nuisance. Around 130,000 people are seriously disturbed by railway noise.

 

Measures

The Noise Abatement Act [Wet geluidhinder] is intended to protect citizens from excessive noise. This law also records railway noise standards. It does not include any separate standard for night-time rail traffic noise. However, it does set a threshold value for noise exposure during the entire day, referred to as the Lden. This includes the noise exposure during the night.


Lden and Lnight

The noise exposure is expressed in Lden (Lday-evening-night) and represents the average noise exposure during an entire day. The calculation of the Lden attaches much more weight to the night-time noise exposure because noise at night causes a lot more nuisance than during the day. The night-time noise exposure is expressed in Lnight, the criterion for average noise exposure from 23:00 to 7:00.


To the maps

A variety of noise pollution maps are included in the Atlas. You can study the noise exposure caused by rail traffic or the night-time noise exposure by rail traffic at a location of your choice. There is also a map that shows the percentage of people suffering serious inconvenience due to noise from passing trains, per municipality.

edited January 5th 2018

Nuisance and sleep disturbance

The noise levels in our residential environment primarily cause inconvenience and sleep disturbance (difficulty getting to sleep, waking up during the night or waking up earlier than normal in the morning). A higher exposure to noise can increase the possibility of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases and exacerbate the problems faced by people who already suffer from cardiovascular conditions. If children are exposed to noise at school, their performance may suffer. Sleep disturbance can also lead to a bad mood, tiredness and a reduced capacity to perform the following day. The Atlas contains a map which shows the percentage of the people suffering serious inconvenience due to passing trains.

If the Lnight is higher than 40 dB, people can suffer serious inconvenience due to sleep disturbance. In 2008, rail traffic resulted in serious inconvenience and sleep disturbance for 1% of Dutch people. If you would like to find out more about the health effects of noise, please visit the Volksgezondheidenzorg.info website.

edited January 5th 2018

Rail traffic noise statutory framework

In the Netherlands there are two laws which apply to managing rail traffic noise, namely the Environmental Management Act [Wet milieubeheer] and the Noise Abatement Act [Wet geluidhinder]. Both laws apply to specific situations. The table below shows a statutory framework for rail traffic noise.

  Railway line construction/alteration Construction along a railway line
Main rail network (noise emission ceiling) Environmental Management Act Noise Abatement Act
Other railways Noise Abatement Act Noise Abatement Act

 

The Noise Abatement Act

The Noise Abatement Act is intended to protect citizens from excessive noise. This Act contains standards applicable to noise from road and rail traffic and industrial estates. Preferential values and maximum permissible threshold values apply for the noise exposure outside homes, hospitals and schools (so-called noise-sensitive properties). A distinction is made between existing and new situations. Tighter threshold values apply to new situations.

The Noise Abatement Act is applicable in the following situations:

  • The construction of noise-sensitive premises (such as a home) close to a railway line.
  • The construction/alteration of a railway line which is not featured on the noise ceiling map.


The noise exposure is expressed in Lden and Lnight. Lden (Lday evening night) gives the average noise exposure during an entire day. The Lden calculation attaches more weight to the evening exposure than the daytime period and more weight is also attached to the night-time exposure than exposure during the evening period. This is because noise in the evening and night causes more nuisance than during the day. If the term Lnight is used, this means the average noise exposure from 23:00 to 7:00. The set standards / threshold values of rail traffic only apply to Lden.

If you would like to out more about the noise policy, please visit the central government website: Noise pollution in the law.

Noise threshold values

The Noise Abatement Act refers to two threshold values:

  • the preferential threshold value (lower limit);
  • the maximum permissible threshold value (upper limit).

The noise exposure of a railway line, road, industrial estate or other source of noise on the surrounding buildings may not, in principle, exceed the preferential threshold value. If a contractor constructs a railway line, he has to calculate how much noise this railway line is expected to produce. If it is expected that the noise exposure of the railway line exceeds the preferential threshold value, dispensation will be required from the government. The noise exposure on a home – even with a dispensation – may not exceed the maximum permissible threshold value. This can be deviated from only in exceptional circumstances by invoking the Crisis and Recovery Act [Crisis- en Herstelwet].

 

Main rail network

The threshold values differ for rail traffic, road traffic and industry. According to the Environmental Management Act the main rail network is subject to a single preferential threshold value and a single maximum permissible value as regards to construction or alteration to the railway line. The construction of homes along the main rail network is subject to the standards included in the Noise Abatement Act. The threshold values (Lden) during the construction or alteration of the railway are:

 

Preferential threshold value dB

Maximum permissible value dB

Main rail network

55

70


Other railway lines

For the railway lines which fall outside the main rail network and for the construction of homes both outside and along the main railway network standards are included in the Noise pollution decree [Besluit geluidhinder] that falls under the Noise Abatement Act [Wet geluidhinder]. For the various situations the permitted noise exposure (in Lden) is as follows:

Property

Preferential threshold value dB

Maximum permissible value dB

New build near existing railway line

55

68

New railway line near existing homes

55

68

 

Who is responsible

During the construction of new homes the municipality in which these homes are being built is responsible for restricting noise and the municipality decides regarding a possible exemption from the noise standards. The municipality has to take noise-restricting measures wherever possible, for example:

  • tackling the noise source;
  • taking measures between the source and homes, such as a noise barrier;
  • taking measures in relation to the homes, for example insulation.


The central government is responsible for the main rail network. The construction of new main railway lines is subject to the Environmental Management Act and the system of exemptions from noise standards is not applicable. Instead an assessment is made against noise emission ceilings.


Amendment of the Noise Abatement Act: SWUNG

The Noise Abatement Act offered insufficient protection against the consequences of the growth in the rail traffic. In actual fact it had to be determined whether the level of noise from a road or railway complied with the threshold values if new homes were to be built or if new roads and railways were to be constructed or modified. However, traffic can also increase on an existing stretch of rail. If the noise exposure then exceeds the threshold values, this does not result in obligations under the Noise Abatement Act.

This has changed since SWUNG-1 was introduced. This imposes threshold values on the noise that motorways and railways are allowed to produce in what is known as the noise emission ceilings. These noise emission ceilings indicate how much noise a certain motorway or railway may produce as a maximum at certain points on either side. There is also a SWUNG-2, but this has no consequences for the railway.

Approach to homes with excessive noise exposure (remediation)

The new SWUNG legislation also implies a decision to tackle existing homes with excessive noise exposure along main railway lines. This is referred to as remediation and the main rail network is then subject to the Long-term Noise Remediation Programme [Meerjaren Programma Geluidsanering] (MJPG). The MJPG focuses on implementing noise-reducing measures in homes with a noise exposure of more than 70 dB as a consequence of a main railway line.


Measures

The government wants to reduce noise pollution and sleep disturbance with a number of specific measures such as the encouragement of quieter freight trains, braking systems and bridges, the fitting of rail dampers, seamless track and wheels, the installation of sound barriers and the insulation of homes.


EU Environmental Noise Directive

In 2002, the European Union (EU) enacted the Environmental Noise Directive to protect citizens more effectively against noise pollution. This directive obliges the member states to publish noise exposure maps to inform the population about local noise levels. Administrators then use these maps to draw up action plans.

In 2017 noise exposure maps and in 2018 action plans are to be made for:

  • areas with more than 100,000 people;
  • roads used by more than 3 million vehicles annually;
  • main railway lines used by more than 30,000 trains annually;
  • large airports with more than 50,000 flights per year (departures or arrivals).


The noise exposure maps have to show, in any event, the contours for various noise classes (Lden: 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 dB, Lnight: 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 dB). In addition, the number of homes and residents within these noise classes has to be determined and the number of people suffering (serious) inconvenience and (serious) sleep disturbance has to be calculated. In the case of industrial estates any noise zones have to be displayed and for individual companies the contour of the permitted noise exposure.

The maps in the Atlas of the Living Environment have been made in accordance with the requirements of the EU directive. The noise exposure map of Europe can be consulted on the website of the Noise Observation and Information Service Europe (NOISE).

edited January 5th 2018

Nuisance?

Are you experiencing nuisance due to a railway in your neighbourhood? If so, you can contact your municipality or the nearest GGD.

edited January 5th 2018