Network Rail offers solution to loud train horns

Network Rail has come forward with a potential solution to reduce train horn noise after a meeting with local residents in the Arun valley.

The "summit" meeting at Burpham Village Hall on Friday 23 September was organised by Arundel District Councillor Paul Dendle with the support of Nick Herbert MP.

Representatives of Network Rail and Southern Trains were present, together with parish representatives of Burpham (David Sunray), South Stoke & Offham (Peter Marsh) and Warningcamp (Alex Segal).

Mr Herbert told the rail representatives that dozens of local residents had complained to him about the horns fitted to Southern's new trains which were exceptionally loud and caused particular disturbance at night.

The meeting heard that train drivers are legally obliged by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) to sound their horns at whistleboards placed at crossings where pedestrians might not be able to see approaching trains in time.  There are whistleboards on the Arundel to London Line at Warningcamp, Peppering and Pulborough.

Matt Ball of Southern said that the company had already altered a third of the horns on their new trains to reduce the noise from 124 to 116 decibels.  They had speeded up the programme so that the remaining trains would be changed by Christmas.  The minimum level set by the RSSB is 112 decibels, but residents pointed out that this is still very loud.

The RSSB were not present at the meeting and Nick Herbert MP undertook to raise the issue with them as he believed the policy was excessively cautious given the risks involved compared with crossing a road.

However, Network Rail representatives offered another solution, which was to review the three crossings and see whether the sight lines could be improved so that the whistleboards could be removed.

Following the meeting Network Rail officers inspected the Warningcamp crossing and said that if some bushes were removed, and once the necessary risk assessment was completed, the whistleboards could be removed.  The Peppering and Pulborough crossings have still to be reviewed.

Welcoming Network Rail's commitment and help in the matter, Cllr Paul Dendle, who chaired the meeting, commented: "This was a case of teamwork - once a local councillor, MP and parish representatives got together we were able to achieve positive results for the community."

Mr Herbert said: "I welcome Network Rail's commitment to review the whistleboards at these crossings but I still want to discuss whether the new policy of sounding train horns at this volume really is necessary - it never used to happen, and there were no more accidents in the past".

Mr Herbert added that he and Horsham MP Francis Maude were due to meet the Managing Director of Southern, Charles Horton, later in October.


Christopher N Howarth