Work Plan
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Why do we need STAIRRS ? - The Issues

Environmental Pressure

In the last ten years there has been increasing pressure from residents, environmental lobbyists and legislators to reduce railway noise levels. In Switzerland, Austria and Italy (amongst other countries), legislation has been introduced that sets tight limits on the amount of noise railways are allowed to create (and inherently the traffic levels they can achieve).

Forthcoming EU Legislation

A number of Working Groups has been established by the EU's Environment Commission to determine the EU's future policy on potential noise legislation. Unless due consideration of all the factors (economic, technical, environmental) is taken into account, new legislation could have a potentially serious impact on rail transport and could particularly interfere with the environmentally encouraged growth of traffic from other sectors such as road and air. STAIRRS provides the relevant information needed for informed discussion and decision making and helps stimulate the debate required to ensure that a fair but effective solution is reached. There is little point introducing severe limits if they are not technically or economically achievable.

Railway Noise Research

Railway noise research over the last twenty years has done much to further understanding of railway noise generation mechanisms, to develop noise prediction and modelling software and to derive low noise components for potential application. ERRI's TWINS software for example is recognised as the reference to simulate rolling noise generation.
In the last five years this has been reinforced by work carried out in 5 EU projects - Silent Freight, Silent Track, EUROSABOT, EUROECRAN, METARAIL. The first three concentrated on reducing noise creation at source looking at measures for vehicles, track and brake blocks respectively. EUROECRAN studied possible improvements in noise barrier design and construction.

Getting the mix right

Consequently, there are now a number of solutions which could be used to allow some noise reduction to be achieved. It is necessary to ensure that the most cost effective and appropriate blend of those solutions is used. STAIRRS aims to facilitate this process through the development of a cost benefit decision support system for railway noise measures.

STAIRRS Software Tool

The tool can help determine:

  • The reduction of annoyance for different noise policies benefit.
  • The economic effects of policy options cost.
  • A comparison of country specific solutions.
  • Night-time freight capacity.
  • The consequences of noise measures on the viability of rail transport.
  • The impact of different operational measures.

Railway Reorganisation - who is responsible for noise?

At the same time that the technical and environmental developments are taking place the railways themselves have been undergoing a radical change. Previously single entity railway organisations are being split to establish separate companies with responsibilities for service operation and infrastructure management and maintenance. In this new environment, and given the legislative liability inherent in exceeding any prescribed noise limits, the STAIRRS Consensus Workshops will help address the problem of how the responsibility for noise generation will be apportioned.

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