Rail Minister agrees to press industry on train horn noise

23 October 2006

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert is hopeful that action will be taken to deal with train horn noise after the Rail Minister told MPs last week that they were pushing at “an open door” on the issue.

The Minister, Tom Harris MP, had agreed to a meeting with Mr Herbert and other MPs whose constituents are affected by train horn noise.  He said that he sympathised with residents and would like to see action to alleviate the problem, provided that it did not compromise safety.

Following pressure from Mr Herbert and other MPs earlier this year, Network Rail, the Train Operating Companies and the Rail Standards and Safety Board established a cross industry Steering Group to examine the problem of train horn noise.

The Group is currently evaluating options to alleviate the problem, including the installation of lower volume ‘broadband' horns, a night time ‘ban' on horns, and a reduction in the number of locations at which horns are sounded (whistle boards).

Although Southern has already modified the horns on all of its trains, residents say that there is no discernible difference and that the noise of horns, which can carry across the Arun valley, remains unbearable.

The Steering Group is due to report to MPs, including Nick Herbert, at a meeting on Monday 20 November.  The Minister said that, although he had no direct authority over the Group, he would press it to come forward with recommendations before the end of the year.

Following pressure from Nick Herbert and local councillors, Network Rail has already removed the whistle board at Warningcamp.  However, it has ruled that the board at Peppering must remain on safety grounds.

Dozens of residents have also complained about train horn noise in the Pulborough area, and after a meeting with Coldwatham Parish Council, Mr Herbert asked for a review of whistle boards further up the Arun line.

Network Rail has now reported that one of their risk assessors has walked the stretch of line between Coldwaltham and North Heath and has made an initial assessment.

His initial conclusions are that, while it will not be possible to improve the sightlines significantly enough to remove the whistle boards at three of the six crossings along this stretch of line, it might be possible to take the three others down with extensive removal of vegetation.

The assessor will now visit the sites with a local Network Rail representative to look at the vegetation and the feasibility of removing it.

Nick Herbert said: "We are slowly making progress in dealing with the problem of train horn noise.  I appreciate that it's no small matter for residents who are affected, and I will keep pressing the rail industry for action.

 "I hope that more whistleboards will be removed in the Pulborough area, and that the rail industry Steering Group will come up with additional ways of dealing with this unnecessary nuisance."

He added: "The risk to pedestrians at most line crossings is very low, provided that they take adequate precautions, and warning signs should suffice.  I will continue to pursue this matter until we get a more balanced approach to safety."

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