Rail noise study to be kept secret
A SOUTH FREMANTLE resident is angry after participating in a program to monitor rail freight noise, but being denied access to the results.
Paul McGovern, who runs the Freo Freight Train Curfew group on Facebook, took part in a noise and vibration study conducted by the Freight and Logistics Council of WA, which has established a joint/industry working group to “better manage” the impact of freight rail transport.
But when he asked for the results, he was told they were being kept under wraps because of “commercial confidentiality”.
Mr McGovern says that’s fuelled his belief rail operators are flouting WA’s noise regulations and putting residents’ health at risk.
“To people who say we are whingers, we have teachers and nurses living along the freight line who complain to us about not being able to get back to sleep,” Mr McGovern said.
“Would they like to be treated by someone who’s only half-awake because they couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep?
“People in Bibra Lake say it’s unbearable. We just want operators to comply with noise mitigation laws.”
Mr McGovern says WA is falling behind NSW after it adopted a freight plan this year that acknowledged a range of health problems associated with living near railways, including diesel pollution, and proposes hard-hitting measures against rail operators who use old, noisy equipment.
Those measures go beyond the $50 million noise attenuation program NSW adopted in 2015, which provides residents with cash to upgrade their windows, doors and ventilation systems.
Mr McGovern claims NSW’s win has come at a painful cost for people in WA.
“Locomotives failing noise regulations in NSW are now used in WA,” he said.
Mr McGovern believes there are already a range of simple changes the freight council could help introduce that would make residents’ lives more bearable.
“Fremantle city council agreed with me that the crossing bells are unnecessarily long,” Mr McGovern said.
“The drivers are also required to sound their klaxon horn for the full three seconds. That’s not necessary.”
Mr McGovern says while delving into the issue, he heard anecdotal stories that the three-second rule was introduced years ago because it was considered long enough to give drunks enough time to wake up and stagger off the railway tracks.
He also backs Fremantle federal MP Josh Wilson’s call for a replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge including double rail tracks to solve the problem of scheduling conflicts between passenger and freight trains (“Chorus for new bridge,” Herald, September 8, 2018).
“Ultimately freight at the port needs separating, because time slots are limited and affecting residents at night, and we would love them to run them during the day,” Mr McGovern said.
Freight and Logistics Council executive officer Kellie Houlahan told the Herald the results of the trial had to be kept secret to ensure all operators would participate, otherwise its results would have been compromised.
Ms Houlahan says there’s community support for increasing freight rail because it makes roads safer, and the council had established a joint government/industry group to manage the impacts.
“The FLCWA working group has identified a range of potential measures to manage noise from rail freight operations and is in discussion with government regarding reasonable and practical measures to implement.
“It is important to note that there are no noise regulations within Western Australia which are applicable to noise from existing freight railways.”
But she says a current review of the state’s planning policy around road and rail transport was an opportunity to improve rail noise in the long term.
by STEVE GRANT