New local trains have made your daily commute noisier. Preliminary findings by non-government organisation Awaaz Foundation found that noise levels inside new Central Railway trains, which have loudspeakers, almost matched those of the old trains, inside which announcements were not made.
When the loudspeakers on new trains, which ply between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Sewri, made announcements about upcoming stations in English, Hindi and Marathi, noise levels reached 88.8 decibels (dB). Noise levels in old trains were anywhere between 82dB and 88.4dB. The new trains have lower background noise levels, which include commuters talking and movement of trains. This ranges from 72.8dB to 74.2dB. The screeching sound a train makes when it breaks makes the maximum noise(100.6dB).
The preliminary report found that many of the announcements were non-essential and frequent, with loudspeakers in use even when the train had reached the platform. “Commuting is a large part of people’s lives, one they spend hours on. There is a restriction on how much noise people should be exposed to for health reasons. While there are a number of other problems such as overcrowding, extra noise definitely adds to commuters’ stress,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.
Studies have shown that diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, hearing loss and mental illness are all impacts of noise pollution. High noise levels also cause sleep disturbances and adversely affect work productivity.
“Why do we need loudspeakers in the train? A silent airport made fliers’ lives so much better,” said Abdulali. “About 90% of commuters are regulars who do not need to be told which station is coming up. For those who don’t, such as foreigners, commuters are very helpful.”
Chief public relations officer for Central Railway, Narendra Patil, called the preliminary findings “far-fetched”. “There are many commuters who are not regulars. The announcements alert them about upcoming stations and are much-appreciated . Noise levels from loudspeaker announcements are lower than noise levels of commuters talking or other trains passing by,” he said.
Abdulali plans to write to railway minister Suresh Prabhu. “Railways need to look at solutions to reduce overall noise. A simple method would be to stop unnecessary additional noise,” said Abdulali. “Even if the announcements are not that loud, they are still disturbing as they are artificial sounds. The yelling of commuters is still a natural sound,” she said.
Last year, Awaaz Foundation had recorded noise levels in trains on the Western Railway between Churchgate and Virar. It found an increase when announcements were made. Noise levels ranged from 66dB to 75dB when the train was stationary, and reached 90 dB when crossing other trains at a high speed.
With commuters exposed to noise levels for approximately three hours during their daily commute, the report read, “Noise from announcements is louder when moving towards north Mumbai. Long distance trains cross North Mumbai locations at a high speed, often honking continuously at decibel levels nearing 100 dB.”