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Railway Noise and Vibration

Noise and vibration phenomena of concern to railways include:

  1. Wheel-rail rolling noise - this broad-band noise is caused by vibrations of the wheel and rail which are excited at their contact by irregularities of the running surfaces. This is the dominant source of noise from railway operations. At ISVR, extensive research has been conducted through the Silent Freight and Silent Track projects into solutions for rolling noise.
  2. Squealing as wheels traverse curves of tight radius - this high pitched tonal noise is an acute cause of annoyance to those living adjacent to such a curve. It is of particular concern for urban railways and tramways which often have tight radius curves close to buildings. Mainline freight and passenger railways are also affected at tight curves in depots, sidings and stations.
  3. Impact noise generated at discontinuities and severe features in the track or wheel, e.g. points and crossings, rail joints, welds or wheel flats.
  4. Feelable, low frequency ground-borne vibration - such vibration occurs in locations of soft soil and propagates parallel to the ground surface with a low rate of attenuation with distance. This is of particular concern for heavy axle freight operations. The dominant frequencies are between 4 and 50 Hz. EPSRC-sponsored research has led to the development of both boundary element and analytical models that can be used for studying the propagation of vibration through layered ground structures.
  5. Rumbling noise from trains in tunnels (ground-borne noise) - this is generated as vibration of the track is transmitted through the ground and radiated as sound within buildings by vibration of their walls. This has components between about 30 Hz and 200 Hz. It can be particularly annoying as it comes from a source that cannot be seen and no screening is possible. Work is continuing on an EPSRC grant to model the ground using a combination of finite element and boundary element techniques.
  6. Noise radiated from bridges - the vibration of the track is transmitted into the bridge structure which in turn radiates low frequency sound. This can raise the overall level of noise near bridges by up to 20 dB. An insight into the design of bridges can eliminate this amplification, even for steel bridges.
  7. Engine noise and other sources of noise at depots and stations - this has characteristics common to industrial noise sources.
  8. Aerodynamic noise from trains - this is significant compared with rolling noise only at very high speed, typically above 300 km/h.
  9. Interior noise - the noise inside passenger vehicles has a great effect on the level of passenger comfort.
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