Noisy study

FREO residents sick of being woken up by squealing freight trains might soon get a better night’s sleep.

The Freight and Logistics council of Western Australia has put testing equipment in the homes of residents living along the railway line to measure vibration and noise levels.

The testing, scheduled to finish early next year, will generate data that can be used to find a solution to reduce the din.

FLC executive officer Mark Brownell says “there’s two key sources of noise; one being the trains themselves, their squeaking wheels or unpickened wagons, but the other source of noise that is particularly relevant to South Fremantle is the crossings”.

“You’ve got bells and the boom gates, trains to blow horns on some of the crossings, pedestrian buses and what some of the people in South Fremantle tell us is where there are a large number of crossings, the noise associated with those activities is more annoying than the noise of the trains themselves.

• Alison Batcheler: one of many residents calling for a train curfew between 11pm and 7am. File photo by Paul McGovern

“If it is train noise, then maybe we need to talk through with industry leaders to what can be done to reduce those annoyances.

“If it is noise associated with level crossings its a government issue, because those noises sources are enshrined in rail safety regulations, national ones. It would be a case of having to amend the requirements in those rail safety regulations.”

Local resident Paul McGovern has had testing equipment in his house for two months, and says that since new railway operator Watco took over the contract from Aurizon, there has been a slight decrease in the number of trains during the day and operators are “more mindful”; but the night trains continue and their carriages are longer.

“It’s something that has an impact on people,” he says.

“It’s like buying a house across from a hotel and then they turn it into a nightclub,” he laughs.

Mr McGovern says he supports freight on rail, but wants a balance struck between the operators’ and the community’s needs, and is calling for a night time curfew.

“All we’re asking for is for government to enact laws to protect it.”

There’s little chance of that though according to Mr Brownell, who says legislating nighttime curfews could deter train operators from running in Fremantle.

“We don’t want to enter the formality of legislative change,” he says.

“They [freight rail services] are marginal operations at best. That’s why the government subsidised the port rail operation. So there are limitations to what industry can do or is willing to, because clearly they’re not going to spend a lot of money on operations that are marginal.

“I mean you’ll ever get such a thing as a quiet train, but if we can get to a point where those large impacts are moderated then I think we’re on our way to a sustainable balance between industry needs and community needs.”

by EMILEE NEESON

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