Since the pandemic, people’s sensitivity to noise has increased. This is due to the rise in home working and the impact Covid has had on people’s general mental health
Managing noise levels has always been an issue for those operating in the rail industry, but train operators and railway businesses now face the risk of an increase in the number of people raising noise-related complaints. The challenge is to find more efficient and effective ways to manage, control and, where possible, reduce the impact railway noise has on local communities and the environment. Protecting people’s health and well-being and avoiding reputational damage are essential.
According to the World Health Organisation, noise is the second biggest environmental cause of health problems. Research shows a direct link between excessive noise exposure and conditions
such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, stress, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, it is incumbent on all businesses operating within the rail industry to take noise measurement, management, and control seriously. Not only to protect the health and well-being of those living near the railway but also their organisations’ reputations.
Finding the right equipment for the challenge
Meeting the challenge isn’t easy. It involves knowing how to manage noise itself as well as finding the right equipment. Organisations need equipment that can be installed for long periods in difficult-to-access areas and relied on to provide comprehensive and reliable data. Th ey need a cutting-edge solution that offers flexibility, efficacy and efficiency that most traditional noise monitoring instruments can’t.
Although they meet the demands of typical British weather and comprehensive environmental noise regulations, traditional noise monitors often require user intervention once installed, which is far from ideal when operators have to install monitors across a large geographical area and in hard-to-access trackside areas. The more rail operators can reduce the health and safety risk to engineers who may have once had to visit these monitors to carry out checks or download noise measurement data directly from them, the better.
Finding the right track partner for remote noise monitoring
One of the UK’s busiest train operators has already started taking steps to get on the right track with its commitment to noise management and reduction. Its new ‘noise monitoring and management strategy’ aims to mitigate the impact that different types of noise have and seeks to influence an improvement in noise monitoring in the rail industry more generally. They hope to
achieve this by understanding continuous, intermittent, impulsive and low-frequency noise in various trackside locations.
The rail operator approached Cirrus Research plc, a UK-based acoustic measurement and environmental noise specialist. Th roughout its 52-year history, Cirrus Research has worked with some of
the biggest names in aviation, construction and the automotive industry, helping them monitor, manage and reduce their noise impact. So, the rail operator knew Cirrus Research were the right team for the job.
Measure, monitor and analyse noise whenever, wherever
Launched late last year, Quantum Outdoor is an environmental noise monitor that takes full advantage of cloud technology to offer a comprehensive solution for long-term, remote, unattended noise measurements in the rail industry. It provides continuous noise level monitoring 24 hours a day, without the need for any user intervention. It sends its data directly to the online Quantum Portal so that users of the system can log in using their organisation’s unique account details to get a real-time view of the noise levels, wherever their monitors are, whenever they need to check.
One of the other benefits provided by Quantum Outdoor is users’ ability to review historical data and create reports directly from within the cloud platform. Users can also export data to third-party software for further detailed analysis and reporting.
Much more than a noise monitor
Although primarily a noise monitor, Quantum Outdoor goes beyond providing acoustic data alone. Th e units installed by Cirrus Research incorporate weather monitoring to provide a more holistic view of the noise situation. Heavy wind and rain can impact noise levels and create unusual results. Having access to weather data directly alongside noise measurement information provides more context when reviewing historical data and helps the operator to plan remedial action more effectively.
In conjunction with weather data, the rail operator is also taking advantage of the ability to program Quantum Outdoor to capture audio recordings when noise levels exceed a pre-set trigger. These audio recordings will help identify the source of specific noise events and provide further clarity when deciding how to target noise levels more efficiently. The rail operator uses these audio recordings specifically to help categorise noise events into their different types, which forms a substantial part of their strategy.
The rail operator chose Quantum Outdoor for one main reason: although other cloud-connected remote noise monitoring systems are available, few can meet its performance and flexibility. Multiple Quantum units can be connected to one network within a single integrated system, allowing users to view data from several units regardless of where they’re installed. Additionally, the rail operator’s team has complete flexibility over its data management and subscription plans. The team can add or remove features and functionality at any time. There are no contracts or minimum terms. The team only pays for what it needs, for as long as they need it.
The data provided by Quantum Outdoor is already making a big difference to the rail operator and is helping them to implement changes as part of their strategy. The reports the team has been able to generate have provided data and insight that was not previously available.
As the rail operator continues to work together with Cirrus Research and Quantum Outdoor, they anticipate making significant improvements to lessen the significance of their noise output, positively impacting all those affected by railway noise.
Away from the specific work this rail operator is doing with Quantum Outdoor and Cirrus Research, the instrument promises to revolutionise the way the rail industry measures, manages, and controls noise, with the following key features available as standard:
- Remote access to all captured data, in any location, at any time and on any device.
- Comprehensive environmental monitoring with noise available as standard and weather, vibration, dust and gas measurements made possible through bolt-on modules.
- Real-time alerts direct to your smartphone when noise levels breach pre-set event triggers.
- Comprehensive data analysis and reporting are available directly in the cloud or Cirrus Research’s licence-free software, NoiseTools.
- Secure data storage and management options.
- Flexible installation and power options, including mains and solar.
- Self-system integrity check that scans the instrument for errors without any user intervention.
- Flexible subscription packages that can be upgraded or downgraded at any time, to ensure you only ever pay for what you need, when you need it.