Nick Herbert takes up train horn noise with Network Rail Chief Executive

31 January 2006

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert is holding open meetings for the public across his constituency over the next three months.

Mr Herbert was joined by Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames and other MPs in the South East who have faced similar problems.  Hundreds of local residents have complained about the exceptionally loud horns fitted to new trains.

Since Mr Herbert and community representatives met with local Railtrack officials and representatives of Southern trains in September last year, action has been taken by both organisations.

Southern has now modified all of its train horns to reduce the volume, and following a review by local Network Rail officials a whistleboard - at which trains have to sound their horns - at Warningcamp will come down.

However, Network Rail reported that they could not remove the whistleboard at Peppering, while others further up the line, at Pulborough and beyond, have yet to be investigated.

Local residents say that even the modified horns are still far louder than those on the old trains.

John Armitt said that train horns had to be sounded to comply with health and safety requirements.  Nationally, 44 people had been killed crossing lines in a decade - although 29 of these were suicides, and he had no information on the circumstances of the other deaths.  However, together with the train operating companies, Railtrack has established a Steering Group to review the issue of train horn noise.

The Group will conduct a new risk analysis to see whether the requirements for sounding horns at pedestrian crossings are appropriate, and what other measures might be possible to deal with the problem.  It will publish an initial report at the beginning of March.

After the meeting Mr Herbert welcomed this development.  He said: "Both Southern and Network Rail have taken on board the level of public concern about this issue, and they have been constructive in their response.

"I hope that the new Steering Group will come up with solutions.  However, the rail industry - not surprisingly - is extremely conscious about safety and public attitudes to incidents.  Of course it is far riskier to cross a road, but the railways always get huge media attention whenever anything happens.  As a result there are disproportionate safety measures at pedestrian crossings, even in rural areas where they are hardly ever used."  Across the country the number of whistleboards has increased by a third in five years.

Mr Herbert, who has also met with the Managing Director of Southern, Charles Horton, to discuss the problem added: "I will continue to keep up the pressure for a balanced approach to safety and action to deal with excessive train horn noise."

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