Like many local residents living in Oxford, Nicola is a strong supporter of increased rail investment and has welcomed progress on the new Oxford Parkway Station at Water Eaton and upgrades to the Oxford to Bicester line as a whole. However, she has been working with residents, the City Council and Network Rail for some time now to ensure that residents living nearby are adequately protected from the inevitable noise and vibration increased passenger and freight trains will lead to.
Nicola raised these concerns at the Public Inquiry that approved the new station in 2009, and the Planning Inspector imposed strict conditions to ensure mitigation measures are put in place to restrict the impact on local residents as much as possible. Oxford City Council are responsible for overseeing this process, and Nicola has been working hard to ensure all parties involved are in fact doing all they can to protect homes from the increased vibration and noise pollution. She also called a meeting with the City Council and local residents back in September, and has since written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, to ask for his support for a reduction in the speed limit along the line.
However, in spite of these meetings and numerous letters, Nicola shared residents concerns that many questions remained unanswered. So Nicola held a public meeting, attended by almost 100 local residents, ahead of crucial planning deadlines. Nicola ensured the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, as well as representatives from Network Rail, Oxford City Council, Chiltern Railways, and Environmental Resources Management (ERM) as the consultancy appointed by Network Rail to undertake the Scheme of Assessment for Noise along the rail route, to address local concerns about unanswered questions on vibration and noise mitigation.
The Minister was able to answer residents’ questions with regard to how Network Rail is held to account, and has promised to write to the Chief Executive of Network Rail to ask that an advanced track form, Tata Silent Track, is advanced as quickly as possible as it may help to significantly reduce noise and vibration.
The City Council and Network Rail made a clear commitment to better communication with local residents, and have promised to put some key clarifications down in writing including:
The Council have an upcoming meeting with Arup (who have drawn up technical notes regarding vibration data and mitigation measures), and the Chief Executive, Tim Sadler, promised Nicola and residents he would discuss their serious concerns about the inadequacy of the so called ’15 metre rule’ whereby Network Rail undertake vibration studies only on homes further than 15m from the track.
All parties present on the panel agreed there was a need for better communication. This is something Nicola has been hearing from residents and is keen to ensure it is addressed. Network Rail and the City Council will also communicate further about requests for a lower speed limit on the line, 30 miles per hour was suggested, and there was a widespread feeling that this would help with both noise and vibration levels.
Nicola awaits written confirmation as outlined above, and will keep all constituents concerned updated. If you do not already receive updates on this, and would like to, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: As promised at the meeting, the Minister has now written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail about silent track. See a copy here: Claire Perry MP to Network Rail 18 March