10th UIC Railway Noise Workshop, 15 March 2016 in Paris

Around 90 people attended the 10th UIC Railway Noise Workshop, held on 15 March 2016 in Paris. The workshop was designed to bring a wide range of stakeholders together in order to facilitate an open, inclusive and constructive discussion regarding the current situation, challenges and possible solutions for managing environmental noise from the rail sector.

In his welcoming address, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of UIC, observed that ‘whilst rail has the lowest environmental impact of any major mode of transport – in Europe at least, noise remains a critical issue. We must work together to ensure greater acceptance of rail transport if we are to increase rail modal share and through this to improve the sustainability of the transport sector.’ He also emphasized the need to move beyond completion between transport modes and collaborate on optimizing inter-modality.

The first sessions focused on noise policy in Europe, with interventions by Mr. Marcin Wójcik from the European Commission, Directorate General MOVE (Mobility and Transport) discussion the recent Staff Working Document concerning rail fright noise. This was followed by Ms. Ivana Juraga of European Commission DG ENV (Environment) who presented an update on the REFIT of the Environmental Noise Directive (END). The session concluded with an intervention by Mr. Ethem Pekin concerning the rail freight noise strategy of the Community of European Railways (CER).

The second session opened with Prof. Stephen Stansfeld of Queen Mary University London is a leading expert on the impact of noise on humans. He addressed the development, by the World Health Organisation, of new environmental noise guidelines for the European region. This was followed by a look at the approach adopted by different transport modes, starting with Mr Nick Craven who presented the recently published report Railway Noise in Europe – State of the Art. This was followed by Mr. Patrick Malléjacq, the incoming Secretary General of PIARC, the World Road Association (a non-political, non-profit association with the aim to promote international cooperation on issues related to roads and road transport) and concluded with Mrs. Marina Bylinsky, Manager Environmental Strategy & Intermodality ACI (professional association of airport operators, joining 500 airports in 45 countries) who presented the State of the Art on Airport Noise Management.

The final session considered differ perspectives regarding communication with residents. This opened with Mr. Dominique Bidou is chairman of the French Noise Information and Documentation Center (CIDB) who presented a case study from the Éole project to the west of Paris. This was followed by Mr. Richard Greer, Director of Acoustics at consulting company Arup, with an introduction to SoundLab auralisation offered by Arup as an alternative to classical ways to inform the public about large infrastructural projects. The next speaker presented the perspective of the residents, Mr. Peter Ettler, president of the Noise League Switzerland (Schweizer Lärm Liga), discussed their lobbying actions and input to the Swiss Railway Noise Improvement Act of 2000. The final speakers presented approached sued by rail and road projects, this included Mrs. Maria Röjvall works for Stockholm City Council, Mr Günther Dinhobl (ÖBB) of the Austrian Railway ÖBB and finally Mrs. Lene Nøhr Michelsen of the Danish Road Administration and Mr. Allen Jensen of consulting company Ramboll.

In the concluding remarks, the workshop moderator Jakob Oertli, Chairman of the UIC Noise Expert Network & SBB, thanked all speakers and participants and observed that the workshop provided a wide variety of perspectives, both in modalities and countries. It was clear that there is a need to maintain a proper balance between environmental performance of the railways on the one side and loss of market share on the other. With respect to the residents, the railways should strive to avoid or minimize health risks. Above all, it is important that all stakeholders will agree to settle for a compromise instead of insisting on their own position.

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