Railways are a fantastic mode of transport, clean and efficient, they are generally well liked or even loved. However, for those living close to railway lines, noise and vibration can be a real problem. Annoyance and sleep disturbance from railway noise and vibration can lead to long term health effects. This has led to noise and vibration being described as the environmental Achilles’ heel of the European rail network. The Acoustics Research Centre has done a lot of groundbreaking work over the past few years to help to understand the effects railway vibration and noise have on people.
Recently, Dr James Woodcock had a paper published in Acta Acustica on some work he did to understand exactly what it is about railway vibration that causes people to become annoyed. This work involved building a simulator that was capable of reproducing the types of vibration people living close to railways experience in their homes. We sat people on the simulator and exposed them to pairs of vibration signals that we had previously recorded in peoples’ homes. By asking people to rate the differences between the pairs of signals, we were able to identify the features of the vibration signals that caused people to be annoyed. It turns out that it’s not just the level of vibration that causes people to be annoyed, but also the duration of the vibration and how the signal varies with time. As it is very expensive to reduce vibration from trains, this work could help to focus vibration mitigation on targeting the specific features of the vibration that cause annoyance in a cost effective manner.
You can read more about this work in the paper here.