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About 18 million people suffer long-term annoyance from transport noise in the European Union (EU). The European Commission’s zero pollution action aims to reduce the number of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30% by 2030, compared to 2017 levels. According to the European Environment Agency’s assessment, published today, reaching this target is unlikely without further regulatory or legislative changes, mainly due to the difficulty in reducing the large number of people exposed to noise from road traffic.
The EEA briefing ‘Outlook to 2030 - can the number of people affected by transport noise be cut by 30%?’ assesses the feasibility of achieving the zero pollution action plan’s noise reduction target through two scenarios: one optimistic and one less ambitious.
According to the EEA briefing, even if the noise reduction measures currently available to local authorities are implemented to a high level, this would only reduce the number of people highly annoyed by transport noise by about 19% by 2030. Some examples of measures included in this optimistic scenario include reduction of speed limits on urban roads, a 50% electrification of road vehicle fleet, maintenance and rail grinding, quieter aircrafts and aircraft night curfews. The scenarios do not consider legislative or regulatory changes at EU level as such changes would require considerable amount of time to develop and implement.
The less ambitious scenario considers a more modest set of measures such as the compliance with the current EU noise regulation for motor vehicles, a 25% electrification of the road vehicle fleet, and improved landing and take-off procedures for aircrafts, amongst others. This scenario predicts that the number of people affected by noise would increase by 3%, mainly due to a projected increase in road, rail and air transport.
To achieve greater progress in reducing noise pollution, more efforts are needed to address noise from road transport, the EEA briefing states. To reach the zero pollution action plan target, measures would need to target not only areas with acute noise problems, but also areas where noise levels are more moderate. A combination of measures including, new or stricter noise regulations for road transport, better urban and transport planning as well as significant reductions in road traffic in cities could pave the way to reach the target.
The EEA briefing also includes five case studies of reducing noise pollution from transport in Berlin (road design), Madrid and Florence (low-noise asphalt and noise barriers), Monza (low-emission zones), Switzerland (rail pads and quieter train brakes), and Zürich (speed limits).
The EEA briefing is based on the European Topic Centre on Human Health and the Environment report ‘Projected health impacts from transportation noise — Exploring two scenarios for 2030’.