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LCQ4: Railway noise in Tai Kok Tsui

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (April 18):


     Recently I have received quite a number of complaints from residents in the vicinity of the MTR Olympic Station, indicating that because of the open air design of the rail sections of the MTR Tung Chung Line and Airport Express adjacent to the housing estates (namely, the Central Park and the Park Avenue) in that district, and in the absence of noise barriers, the nearby residents have been suffering from excessive noise nuisance produced by trains running through the aforesaid sections for years.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it knows, other than the East Rail Line, the total number of rail sections which adopt an open air design and are close to residential buildings at present; of the total number of complaints the authorities had received in the past three years from residents living on both sides of the open air rail sections concerning railway traffic noise;

(b)  of the existing criteria based on which the authorities request the MTR Corporation Limited (¡§MTRCL¡¨) to retrofit semi-enclosures similar to those retrofitted along the East Rail Line section near Yim Po Fong Street in Mong Kok or full enclosures along the open air rail sections close to residential buildings for noise mitigation purpose; whether the Government has specified the distance between MTR rails and residential buildings at present; and

(c)  whether the Environmental Protection Department has sent its staff to measure the noise level on both sides of the open air rail sections of the Olympic Station near the Park Avenue; if it has, of the data so collected; whether the Government has plans to require MTRCL to retrofit full enclosures along the aforesaid sections; if it has, whether it knows the timetable for the retrofitting works?



(a)  Excluding the East Rail Line and the Light Rail of the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), there are a total of eight sections of railway lines which are of open track or viaduct design and close to residential buildings.  Details are set out in the Annex.

     The number of noise complaints related to running trains received by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in the past three years, i.e. from 2009 to 2011, are 25, 30 and 28 respectively.

(b)  The Technical Memorandum under the Noise Control Ordinance (NCO) prescribes three categories of noise standards for trains in accordance with the area sensitivity rating.  For the time period between 7 am and 11 pm, the standards are 60 dB(A), 65 dB(A) and 70 dB(A) respectively.  In general, the noise standards are 60 dB(A) for domestic premises in rural area and 70 dB(A) for domestic premises in urban area.  The standards for the time period between 11 pm and 7 am are set at 10 dB(A) lower than the relevant daytime standards.

     To comply with the above statutory noise standards for trains, the MTRCL may need to adopt noise abatement measures where appropriate.  The MTRCL may undertake whatever abatement measures appropriate in the circumstances.  The NCO does not prescribe the separation distance between railways and domestic premises or the design of noise barriers for railways.

     All new railways must be planned to comply with the noise standards under the NCO through incorporating good design and suitable noise abatement measures in accordance with the requirements under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO).

     Regarding the railways in operation, the EPD will require the MTRCL to make improvements if the noise levels of the trains are found to have exceeded the standards under the NCO.  On receipt of a complaint, the EPD will require the MTRCL to consider the merits of each individual complaint and adopt measures to abate the noise from running trains as far as practicable and with due regard to the actual conditions of the rail sections involved, the technology available and the site conditions.  Measures to reduce noise generated during railway operation include regular grinding of the tracks and wheels; proper maintenance of trains and rails; application of lubricant to the tracks and wheels; adjusting the running patterns of trains and reducing train speed where feasible; provision of wheel dampers; welding all the weldable track joints to reduce noise generated by wheel movements on the track; and provision of noise barriers.

     Nevertheless, for the railway lines that were built before the NCO and the EIAO came into effect, such as the East Rail Line, Tsuen Wan Line, Kwun Tong Line and Island Line, there are practical difficulties and constraints in retrofitting them with noise abatement facilities.  In this connection, section 37 of the NCO also stipulates that the NCO shall apply to the MTRCL only so far as is practicable and compatible with the discharge of any function or the exercise of any power or duty conferred or imposed upon it according to law.

(c)  In response to earlier complaints from residents, the EPD has conducted investigations at several locations in the Olympic area in Tai Kok Tsui about the noise emanating from the open tracks.  In 2003, the EPD found that the levels of train noise near the old buildings of Pok Man Street to the north of Olympic Station at night exceeded the above statutory standards.  Subsequently, the MTRCL reduced the noise level of running trains to within the statutory limits through track grinding, reducing the train speed and installing by the end of 2010 noise barriers to the north of Olympic Station.  The EPD has also conducted investigations at Harbour Green, Island Harbourview and the Long Beach in response to the complaints from residents.  There was no exceedance of the above statutory standards.  For the housing estates located to the south of the Station (including the Central Park and the Park Avenue), noise mitigation measures had been incorporated in these developments at the planning stage, as reflected in the podium design, building layout and disposition.  Measurement by the EPD staff at Central Park Block 1, the block closest to the railway in 2009 showed that the train noise did not exceed the statutory limits.  Measurement was conducted by the department at Central Park again last week and there was no exceedance of the standards also.  The EPD would continue to monitor the situation and check whether it is necessary to require the MTRCL to adopt further noise abatement measures.

Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:51


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