Monday, 28 October 2013

The new Rail Infrastructure Noise Guideline

In May 2013, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) released the Rail Infrastructure Noise Guideline (RING).  The RING replaces the Interim guideline for the assessment of noise from rail infrastructure projects 2007 (NSW).  The purpose of the RING is to streamline the approval process for rail infrastructure projects and protect the wellbeing of communities from the impacts of projects likely to result in increased noise levels.

Projects subject to the RING

The RING applies at the project assessment stage to:
  • new heavy, light and non-network rail lines extending beyond industrial sites
  • the redevelopment of existing lines that are in use or disused, and
  • land-use development that is likely to generate additional rail traffic on an existing rail network.

Mitigating noise impacts

The RING imposes specific trigger levels for cumulative rail noise on the different types of rail infrastructure projects.  All feasible and reasonable noise mitigation measures must be considered for projects that are likely to exceed the specified levels once they are operational.

Calculating noise levels

The noise trigger levels refer to noise at receiver locations in areas of residential land-use in urban, suburban and rural settings and do not include ambient noise from other locations.

For redeveloped projects the trigger levels take into account noise from existing projects and require the calculation of increases in noise only.

Key differences in the RING from the interim guideline

The EPA has made several changes to the scope of the instrument:
  • light rail systems and non-network rail lines are subject to the RING
  • there are no exemptions for minor works
  • the trigger levels for non-rail land-use developments have been revised
  • rail track owners are required to assess the magnitude of any increase in noise levels over a 15 hour day time period and a 9 hour night time period where residential development encroaches on rail lines, rather than for each hour, and
  • projects which exceed the specified triggers are now required to reduce noise levels towards the trigger levels.

Implications of the RING

If you are the proponent of a rail traffic-generating development or non-network rail lines you must consider whether your development will exceed the specific noise and vibration trigger levels.  If these noise levels are likely to be exceeded when the rail project is operational, you must consider ‘feasible’ and ‘reasonable’ noise mitigation to reduce the noise impacts towards the trigger levels and address these mitigation measures in your environmental assessment.

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