Rail Noise & Vibration Research Project for the RSSB

When the Government tasked the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) with developing The Sustainable Rail Blueprint (SRB) – they looked to Encompass to provide specialist support with the Quieter Railway piece.

The objective was to help those in the rail industry manage noise and vibration for better health and well-being of all those impacted by rail.

Background

In line with the Government’s commitment to achieving zero carbon by 2050, there is a strong desire to foster more sustainable work practices across all industries – including Rail.

The Government commissioned – The Sustainable Rail Blueprint (SRB) – an industry-wide framework for achieving a sustainable rail industry. The SRB aims to provide a unified plan to make the UK rail industry more sustainable by 2050.

As the independent safety, standards and research body for Great Britain’s rail network, the Government enlisted the RSSB to lead the development of The SRB in conjunction with the whole industry.

Comprising 11 key topics, The SRB covers various aspects, including “A Quieter Railway,” which specifically addresses how the rail industry can effectively manage noise and vibration to improve overall health and well-being.

With the transport industry almost entirely dependent on machines, environmental noise levels have increased, and the population has become increasingly aware of noise as an environmental issue.

The challenge

Like many sectors, the rail industry has developed tactics for managing and measuring noise, with varying degrees of progress. The SRB recognises this and aims for the industry to adopt a standardised approach to noise and vibration – establishing effective strategies and a robust quantitative framework to mitigate its impacts, measure performance and respond to new concerns.

Tasked with delivering the entire SRB, the RSSB enlisted Encompass Engineering for their specialist skills required to support the noise and vibration component of the project.

With their extensive years of experience working on rolling stock projects and their specialist skills in Noise management, Encompass Engineering were well-equipped to help.

Drawing on their extensive knowledge of train design, Encompass brought an in-depth understanding of noise—from the sounds generated by a moving train, including those from wheels, speed fluctuations, rail surfaces and joins, to noise from stationary or slow-moving trains emitting exterior noise through motors, door operations, exhausts, cooling fans, brakes, and heating and ventilation systems. Their expertise also extends to noise emissions from maintenance depots, including factors such as horns, whistles, heavy equipment, and depot movements.

The brief

The RSSB was keen to establish a consistent approach across the industry – establishing benchmarks on noise metrics and how to measure them.

The RSSB tasked Encompass with presenting a noise (and vibration) management strategy for the rail industry and establishing a standardised approach to complaints management by drawing from best practices and lessons learned from rail and other sectors.

The solution

By researching and interviewing key stakeholders and industry specialists, Encompass was able to collate this industry knowledge and combine it with their own extension experience of the rail industry to compile a comprehensive report for the RSSB, which detailed their findings and recommendations for the industry going forward.

Finally, Encompass were able to take these findings and create a template for a best practice noise and vibration strategy and establish a consistent approach to managing noise-related complaints that those in rail could follow and adopt.

The result

With the help of Encompass, the RSSB has completed the noise and vibration section of the SRB. This section outlines best practices, a noise management strategy, and procedures for reporting and monitoring noise and vibration and recommends an effective complaints process relating to noise and vibration in rail.

This research and the subsequent documentation and recommendations are the result of close collaboration with the RSSB, but also Defra and the Department for Transport (DfT).

The DfT has since incorporated noise and vibration management as a regulation into their National Rail Contracts and confirmed that the template and guidance documentation created by Encompass Engineering will be the baseline for these NRC requirements. It is a positive step forward for rail in meeting its sustainability goals.

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