Idling train noise and pollution creating misery for Filton residents

Residents in Filton say their lives are being ruined by ‘idling’ trains which park on a siding at the back of their gardens with the engine running, often throughout the day.

Local people in Conygre Grove say the noise and pollution means they cannot sit out in their gardens in summer and some say their health is being affected.

The trains sit in the siding, off the main line, to free up the track before they are deployed elsewhere.

Rail officials have told residents that they cannot turn the engines off for safety reasons as the brakes would not work properly.

The residents say the trains could park just a few hundred yards further up the siding where here are no homes.

Resident Stu Watts said: “It was about two years again this started and now it is all day, every day until about 8pm.

“We had more than 20 on one day, some stopping for nearly 30 minutes with the engines running.”

Another resident, John Stone, said: “It’s like a dripping tap, just waiting for them to arrive. We can’t go our in our gardens or have conversations.

“I’ve shouted at drivers to turn the engines off. Some do but most don’t.”

The residents have met with rail operator GWR but no assurances have been given that changes will be made. They say that even just agreeing to turn the engines off would be an improvement.

They added that they are also frustrated that South Glos Council has not carried out noise and pollution monitoring.

Filton town councillor Dan Boardman is supporting the residents and said: “I’ve been working with Stu for about six months to raise a noise complaint to the SGC environmental enforcement team.

“Progress has been very slow, but they have got GWR to engage and to visit the site to acknowledge there is an issue, and GWR to send a memo to drivers to remind them of the idling policy.

“However, unless the schedule change, from a year ago that started the use of this area as a holding point, is reverted or another permanent solution is found then Stu and his neighbours will continue to suffer as bad habits creep in again. The ultimate solution might be acoustic baffling (like the type you see next to motorways) but I’m not clear the impact and effectiveness that this could have.”

A spokesperson for GWR said: “We always aim to be a good neighbour and sympathise with local residents. Leaving a train on allows necessary functions to remain ready for service. Unlike a car, it’s not merely a turn of a key. For example, the doors on the trains in question are powered by air – as are the brakes. Shutting down the train would require a full start-up which would include drawing air to the brakes to be able to achieve break release. Trains are left idle to avoid cancellations and delays to services.

“We continue to work with our partners at Network Rail to look for opportunities to reduce idling on the Filton Chord in the short term. In future, these services will run to North Filton and Henbury once the line has reopened as part of the MetroWest programme; when that happens these trains should no longer need to idle on the Filton Chord.

“All trains, even in diesel mode, offer a cleaner, environmentally-friendly option than cars.”

A South Glos spokesperson said: “We have met with GWR and a number of residents, regarding residents’ concerns about the disruption caused by idling trains in this siding.

“The council is not able to regulate train operations; as GWR are responsible for trains on this section of track we have requested they pursue a number of options discussed to improve the situation. We hope that alterations to train operations on this siding are feasible and can be implemented as soon as possible by GWR.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said that trains need to be ready to move as soon as red lights turn green.

She said: “This is a very busy junction, linking many different lines, as you can see from the attached picture. Off of three of these junctions, there are stations in close proximity – Bristol Parkway being one of the busier stations – as the resident will know, these train lines also serve freight operators.

“Signals are spaced out across the railway according to speed limits, braking distances and volume of train traffic. When trains arrive at a red signal, at times they may need to idle as they need to be ready for when that signal changes. For freight trains, if they turn off their engines during different weather conditions, they run the risk of the engine not restarting.”

Filton MP Jack Lopresti said: “It would be inappropriate and breaking confidences to refer to any specific cases which my office has dealt with. However, we have had a number of constituents get in touch about this issue. I have been in touch several times with GWR on this and other issues. Section 122 of the Railways Act 1993 means there are fewer noise restrictions on train companies. GWR are aware of local concerns, however, and will be sensitive to these concerns.”