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Health effects of vibration due to trains

Wonen langs het spoor : Gezondheidseffecten van trillingen door treinen


In the Netherlands circa 845.000 residential addresses, with some 1.347.400 residents of 16 years and older, are located within 300 meter distance to a railroad track. About twenty percent of these residents experience severe annoyance from vibrations caused by trains. They complain about feelings of irritation, anger and discomfort. At night this annoyance can manifest itself in severe sleep disturbance. By far the largest part of annoyance and sleep disturbance is reported in relation to vibrations due to cargo-trains.

About 528.000 people live at addresses along the railroad where vibration can be perceived, but vibrations lie below the Vmax-vibrations strength of at maximum 3,2. In the Netherlands this level is used as limit value. A large part of annoyance and sleep-disturbance is found below this limit value. From a public health point of view it is relevant to also address these levels of vibration below the maximum threshold. Because it concerns a large number of residents, much health gain can be achieved here.
In order to abate these relatively low levels of vibrations not only interventions are needed which reduce the vibrations but also clear communication is necessary about factors which amplify the annoyance on top of the vibration strength. One could think of fear of damage to the home and expectations that the level of vibration will increase in the future. It is important to be aware of these feelings and to communicate in a transparent manner about future developments and potential compensation measures.

Despite the fact that the complaints exist already for years, the health effects of vibration due to trains have rarely been studied among residents. In order to gain more insight in the type and size of these effects and in whom these do occur, a questionnaire survey was held among 4927 people living within 300 meters from a railroad track in the Netherlands. This study supports further guidelines for rail traffic related vibrations, but defining the norms falls outside the scope of this report. Hereto we need more information about measures and their costs. In view of the expected increase in the number of cargo-trains at some locations it is advised to monitor the health effects of these trains.

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