Train whistle woes may be silenced

RAIL safety chiefs are due to visit a rural railway line where villagers claim their lives are being blighted by loud train horn blasts day and night.The Train Horns Steering Group is coming to Ardleigh on Friday to meet villagers, members of the Ardleigh Trains Action Committee (ATAC) and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin.

By Juliette Maxam

RAIL safety chiefs are due to visit a rural railway line where villagers claim their lives are being blighted by loud train horn blasts day and night.

The Train Horns Steering Group is coming to Ardleigh on Friday to meet villagers, members of the Ardleigh Trains Action Committee (ATAC) and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin.

Villagers have complained that they are being driven mad by loud blasts from train horns since Network Rail installed whistle boards - signs telling train drivers to sound their horns - along the track in Ardleigh last summer.


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The boards are placed at parts of the track where pedestrians and vehicles are allowed to cross.

The steering group, which includes representatives from Network Rail, the Rail Safety and Standards Board and the Health and Safety Executive, agreed to pay a site visit to Ardleigh to discuss the siting of whistle boards and see paths which cross the lines for themselves.

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Last week Mr Jenkin met the steering group at a meeting in Westminster with other MPs whose constituents have been affected by train horns.

Mr Jenkin said rail safety bodies claim there is a need for a warning system to warn pedestrians and vehicles at all crossing points, but they do now accept that each site must be reviewed to ensure that they are necessary.

There are a number of solutions, both temporary and long term, that the steering group is investigating and will report back to MPs in June. The MPs have demanded to see the Secretary of State if any legislation requires to be changed or funding made available to alter the trains.

Proposals under consideration to alleviate the problem include a thorough review of every whistle board to ensure it is necessary; and research to determine if safety risk outweighs health risk caused by disturbed sleep for local residents. This will be along similar lines to research conducted on night flights and the noise disturbance that they cause.

Other proposals include investigating how to reduce the decibel level of train horns using a directional horn system or broadband system and suspending or diverting footpaths away from the railway line.

Mr Jenkin said: “I am meeting representatives from the Train Horn Steering Group in my constituency next Friday. I shall view each board site with them and discuss the risk at that site and the effect it is having on residents. My hope is that we will be joined by representatives of local residents and council officials to see if diverting the paths might be an option.”

Guy Lawrence, chairman of ATAC, said: “It is good Bernard is so upbeat, but the time for more discussion is over. Night-time horn sounding should be stopped immediately. It is not allowed on the roads, where the risk is far greater and the casualties far greater.

“How many people are wandering our footpaths at three in the morning after all?”

He added: “If Network Rail were an individual they would, in my opinion, have had an ASBO served on them. Enough agreeing to talk. Some action please gentlemen.”

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