HC Deb 28 November 1991 vol 199 cc570-2W
Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the Government's conclusions on the report "Railway Noise and the Insulation of Dwellings" by the committee chaired by Dr. Mitchell.

Mr. Freeman

In my reply to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) on 27 February 1991,Official Report, column 507, I said that before deciding on the committee's recommendations we would like to have the views of railway operators and other interested parties. We have now considered the views received and have come to the following decisions on the committee's main recommendations. Our aim has been as far as possible to achieve equity in the noise insulation standards applying to new roads and new railways. But as was evident from the committee's report, this is a field in which there is room for different opinions.

We accept the committee's view (recommendation 1 in the report) that those responsible for new railway lines should take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce noise in the corridor along the line, provided that they are cost effective.

We accept that there should be a night-time noise insulation standard for noise from new railways as well as a day-time standard (recommendations 2, 3 and 4). We have decided that, in line with the existing noise insultation standard for new roads, day time should be defined as 0600 to midnight, and that the levels should be 68 dBA LAeq 18 hr for day and 63 dBA LAeq 6 hrfor night. 68 dBA LAeq 18 hr is a straight conversion from the 24 -hour level recommended by the committee. In the case of the night-time standard, both British Rail and the transport and road research laboratory have carried out analyses of more sets of road noise data than were available to the committee. Our decision that the night-time standard noise for railways should be 63 dBA LAeq 6 hr reflects the outcome of those later analyses.

We accept in principle that the detailed operation of the noise insulation standards for new railways should follow as closely as possible the system already provided in the Noise Insulation Regulations 1973 (as amended) in the case of new roads (recommendations 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11).

The committee identified a number of other items that would need to be specified in any regulations (recommendations 9, 10, 12 and 13). We shall consider these recommendations when drawing up regulations to give effect to the noise insulation standards. In drafting the regulations and an associated technical memorandum, the Department will seek the technical assistance of Dr. Mitchell and some of the members of his committee and of representatives of the railway operators. We shall also ask this group to consider further whether it would be appropriate and practicable to include a maximum pass-by noise standard in the regulations (recommendation 15), though it would go beyond strict equity with the current statutory position relating to noise from new roads.

We accept recommendation 14 (that any future change in the noise level for the insulation of houses near new roads should be matched by a corresponding change for houses near new railways). We hope to commission next year a review of the data from road noise surveys to see whether there is any evidence of a shift in social attitudes towards road traffic noise. If such evidence emerges, we will consider the need for a large-scale study to determine whether there is a case for revising the noise insulation standard for new roads. We also accept in principle that when a new railway line is opened the opportunity should be taken to obtain evidence of the response to noise from new railway lines (recommendation 17). In the light of the evidence from the various studies, it may be appropriate in due course to review the relationship between the standard for new roads and those for new railways.

We are considering the implications of bringing some non-domestic buildings within the scope of the road noise insulation regulations; any change will be reflected in the regulations for railways (recommendation 16).

We shall consult on a draft of the regulations before they are made.