STATUTORY nuisance abatement notices have been issued against both First Greater Western (FGW) and Network Rail, and their directors, as Reading Borough Council continues to try and resolve the serious noise issues which blight the lives of Cardiff Road residents living near the Reading Train Care Depot.
The statutory notices were issued yesterday (November 14th). It follows complaints from residents for a number of years relating to noise and sleep disturbance caused by trains and associated operations at the sidings behind Cardiff Road.
Following a detailed investigation by environmental protection officers and independent experts, the Council is now satisfied that a statutory nuisance prejudicial to the health of local residents exists. Once the statutory nuisance has been established, the local authority has a general statutory duty to serve the legal notice.
The Council-led investigation on Cardiff Road, and the subsequent serving of legal notices this week, follow years of prolonged negotiations between the local authority, Network Rail and FGW, which have so far failed to resolve the issue.
Despite repeated requests, the Council is of the opinion that neither Network Rail nor FGW have put forward any sufficiently specific proposals to abate or mitigate the noise nuisance to a satisfactory level within a reasonable timeframe. The proposed electrification of the western line has been cited as a solution to the issue, but the Government announcement earlier this year of major delays to the project means diesel trains will continue to be serviced at the Reading Train Care Depot into the future.
While non suspension of the legal notices mean both Network Rail and FGW and their directors could be prosecuted if the noise nuisance continues beyond the six month period specified in the notices, Reading Borough Council has continued to make it clear that it remains willing to consider all reasonable proposals which would abate the nuisance. The Council is also prepared to consider in addition formal mediation, if satisfied this would be a quicker satisfactory solution to this long running problem.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“It is regrettable that the Council has had to take this action, but it follows years of inactivity from both FGW and Network Rail on this important issue. In the meantime residents in Cardiff Road continue to suffer from noise disturbance and sleepless nights as a result of the noisy diesel trains that continue to be serviced from the enlarged Reading Train Care Depot.
“If electrification had been delivered on time, it would have meant by the end of 2017 far fewer diesel trains would have been serviced in Reading. The recent collapse of the electrification programme however, and the lack of any clarity of timescales, means there is no end in sight to the misery for local residents.
“Council officers have spent many hours at properties in Cardiff Road – including overnight – monitoring noise levels. We have commissioned acoustic and other experts, and having now established that a statutory nuisance prejudicial to health exists, the Council clearly has little option but to proceed to serve the legal notices. We sincerely hope that it brings both Network Rail and FGW to the table for serious consideration of this matter.
“The Council has no desire to disrupt the day to day operation of the railway. The Council is clear however, that we have a responsibility for the health of local residents, and that the status quo cannot be allowed to continue.
“We are also aware that in many cases mediation can offer a speedy solution to such problems. We hope that such discussions can take place without further delay, offering a solution to the satisfaction of all parties, not least the long-suffering residents of Cardiff Road.”
Notes to Editor:
Network Rail built the Reading Train Care Depot in 2013 under permitted development. At the time Network Rail made a commitment to local residents that the noise associated with the depot would be no worse than was experienced prior to the development. This proved not to be the case and residents complained to Reading Borough Council about noise, light and odour nuisance.
In 2013 – following extensive communications with Network Rail and GWR – officers served a statutory abatement notice on Network Rail which resulted in them constructing a new acoustic barrier. Network Rail complied with the notice and a four metre high barrier was constructed. As a consequence the Council withdrew the notice. Complaints from Cardiff Road residents continued in 2014 and residents have continued to complain about the noise and sleep disturbance over the following years, prompting further Council action. Reading Borough Council has received expert advice that the acoustic fence is inadequate and does not abate the noise nuisance.
Once a statutory nuisance has been established, and operators have failed to satisfy the local authority that they are employing best practicable means, or that they have a satisfactory solution to an issue, the local authority has a general statutory duty to serve the legal notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990
Having examined the complex legal relationships between FGW and Network Rail, the Council considers that both companies are responsible for the present state of affairs. At the same time, both companies have expressed a desire to seek a solution, and the 6- month period allowed by the Statutory Nuisance Abatement Notices will give them an opportunity to work together to produce a solution to the ongoing nuisance.