Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2012, page 3

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Planned calming of traffic noise in Germany

In accordance with a recent EU proposal to cut traffic noise, Germany is working to take action. According to a report in the Darmstaedter Echo, the German federal minister of transport, Peter Ramsauer wants to introduce measures to considerably reduce traffic noise of all kinds. Air, road and rail traffic are supposed to become discernibly quieter. Ramsauer also wants to spend money on improvements to highly frequented roads for better noise abatement. The railways stand to lose the “rail bonus”, which granted them higher noise levels. The goals, outlined in a paper for the Traffic Committee in parliament, are described as ambitious: Based on 2008 levels, disturbances from aircraft shall be lowered by 20% by the year 2020, by 30% from cars, trucks and motorcycles, and by 50% from trains and inland ship traffic.

“Traffic noise is a burden on humans,” confirms Ramsauer. “Our goal is to reduce traffic noise considerably and permanently.” One of the reasons for this action is the rapidly growing traffic volume. Presently, there are 50 million permitted motor vehicles on German roads, with a propensity to increase. Ramsauer’s ministry reckons with a 20% increase of passenger traffic and an 80% growth of freight transport by 2025. Aircraft movements grow by 5% annually. More transportation, combined with ever higher speeds, generate more noise to burden humans.

The minister is particularly focussing on a rigorous reduction of noise levels of all sorts of traffic. He hopes that, as a consequence, industry will make cars and motorcycles,

buses and trucks quieter, since the new levels will require them to better apply technologies. “Above all, we want to reduce noise right at the source, instead of responding with retrofits,” said the CSU (conservative) politician. The EU Commission has similar plans with an ordinance that is now sent to the member states. In it, it is suggested to lower the noise level of vehicles in two steps by 2dB each. According to experts, cars usually generate bet-ween 62 and 86dB, a passing truck up to 90dB. A jet at take-off drones at 120 to 130dB. The level to trigger a subsidised noise-protection installation in residential areas is currently at about 70dB, according to the Nature Conservation Association.

With regards to the German Railways, the minister plans to implement a noise-based route levy in the coming year. Aside of cancelling the “rail bonus”, there will be an additional noise-based fee component for loud freight trains. Simultaneously, the government continues to promote the revamping of up to 5,000 freight cars with “whisper technology” to make them quieter.

Minister Ramsauer made already headlines earlier when he patronized the production of a special CD with soothing music by Mozart, intended to calm the nerves of irritated motorists and prevent road-rage. It is assumed that highly stressed drivers cause more accidents, which cost not only life and limb, but also lots of money. To date, we have no information on the success of that entertaining campaign.

Tug of war over airport expansions

Noise around big airports worldwide has steadily increased and reached intolerable, literally sickening levels. Ever growing demand drove frequent expansions. On the one hand, the airports grew and on the other hand the residential developments sprawled. Soon, there was not enough noise-abating space between them and the residents became adversely affected. In already densely populated areas the problem with noise started long ago. In spite of that, airport expansions continued, only to reach their capacity in a short time, and generating ever more detrimental noise.

Around Vancouver International Airport, an expansion occurred over twenty years ago. The worst affected Bridge Port residents in Richmond took the airport authority and the federal ministry of transport to court and lost their case. They simply couldn’t match the resources of the proponents. The airport of Frankfurt in Germany frequently expanded during the last four decades, in spite of growing opposition to the rising noise and air pollution. The polarisation of the opposing parties got so bad that, in 1998, a mediation process was initiated. One major component of that was the ban of night-flights, which was not taken as seriously as it should have been by the airport administration and some politicians.

With the latest expansion there, the north-west runway,

the capacity of the Frankfurt hub would increase by 50%, to approximately 700,000 flights annually, with strong speculation on night use. Then came a surprise. Only ten days before the inauguration of that new runway, the Administrative Court of Hesse in Kassel ruled that as of Oct. 30, 2011 no more flights are allowed at Frankfurt Airport between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. This verdict was quickly appealed by the state government of Hesse. A review by the federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is expected to be heard in March 2012, and there is much speculation as to the outcome of it.

Meanwhile, the Federal Administrative Court rejected arguments opposing the expansion of the Berlin-Schoenefeld airport. It allowed an average of 77 starts and landings, maximally 103, between 10 p.m. and midnight, and again between 5 and 6 a.m. Some exceptions like airmail carriers, government planes and emergency operations are still allowed. The proponents hailed this as a success, while opponents speak of a catastrophe. This airport is expected to become the third-largest in Germany.

Quite interestingly, a 32-year-old man had to appear in court in Ruesselsheim for making noise in a demonstration against the Frankfurt airport expansion, which allegedly caused seven police officers to suffer tinnitus. Last year he was acquitted for lack of evidence.

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