Hear this. Your daily train commute on the Mumbai suburban railway is as noisy as an alarm clock ringing constantly, according to a study. While the study revealed that the Western Railway is the noisiest at 119.1 dB — as loud as a steel factory, the Central Railway is quieter, but only marginally, at 91.6dB.
Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Awaaz Foundation measured noise using decibel meters from an old train between Bandra station and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on the harbour line, a new train between CST and Thane station and both old and new trains between Churchgate and Virar stations on the western line. While Virar station was the noisiest on the western line, Byculla station and Mahim junction were the noisiest on the harbour and central lines respectively.
“Railway noise levels have been a huge source of stress, which has not been recognised up till now. After our readings were made public, complaints have been pouring in about how much it affects their daily life. This is just the beginning and there is a lot more to be done to reduce this source of noise pollution,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation. “All types of travel are an integral part of people’s lives. The Centre needs to restrict noise levels on the suburban railways, like it has been done by the Airport Authority of India, which made the Mumbai airport a silent one.”
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials said that the readings were a cause for concern and pose a serious threat to people’s lives as they are exposed to such levels daily. “We will be raising the issue with the Union environment ministry and the railway ministry as noise readings close to 120dB is dangerous for even healthy people if they are exposed to it daily,” said D Saha, additional director, CPCB.
“We will alert the state pollution control board to carry out its own study and the Mumbai railways to install sound barriers along the noisy stretches.”
Every day, 80 lakh commuters travel by the suburban railways —45 lakh along the Central Railway’s main and harbour routes and 35 lakh on the Western. According to the latest state budget, 47 new trains have been sanctioned by the government, all of them will have closed doors to control noise pollution, said railway officials.
Experts said apart from phasing out old trains, controlling two sources of noise – noisy compressor motors on trains and the screeching noise during braking — was also needed. “The level of ambient noise is already high because India as a nation is noisy,” said PC Sahgal, engineer and former managing director, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation. “However, when we come to specifics, the ministry has ordered 2,000 new coaches with less noisy compressor motors. The screeching noise can also be reduced through regenerative braking (using the motor as a generator and slowly reducing the speed of the train) by delaying the friction between brake block and wheel. Lastly, all old trains need to be completely phased out.”