Auken urges EU action on transport noise

Framework directive on noise promised by end of 1999; EU quality standards an "open question"

The EU should take action against transport noise, Danish environment minister Svend Auken urged today. Opening an EU noise policy conference in Copenhagen, Mr Auken said that noise had been "all too low on our list of environmental priorities" and that the greatest efforts were needed to reduce noise from air, road and rail transport. One approach needed from governments was to "curb the growth" of motorised transport, he said.

The two-day conference marks the official - delayed - start of deliberations intended to lead to an EU framework directive on noise (ENDS Daily 13 July). The initiative marks an important break with past practice, in which EU directives were designed to control noise pollution from just the worst individual sources.

Mr Auken pinpointed cars and trains as important causes of noise disturbance to be tackled by the EU. Measures to promote low-noise car tyres could significantly cut traffic noise, he said, estimating that this measure alone could cut by 20% the number of Danish homes affected by unacceptable noise levels.

The minister called for EU-wide statutory noise limits to be set for railways, particularly as an international high speed train network was being developed. He also called for more EU restrictions on aircraft noise, especially because of "reluctance" on the part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to agree "even on reductions which are possible with today's technology". The aviation industry is already lobbying against a draft EU directive which could ban night flights by older "hush-kitted" aircraft at EU airports.

EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard outlined the main themes that could be taken up in an EU framework noise directive. A pre-condition, she said, was the development of a generally accepted noise index to enable mapping of ambient noise levels across the EU.

Building on this foundation, the European Commission would propose a framework directive before the end of 1999, Ms Bjerregaard said, the main aim of which would be achieve a "better balance" between legislation concerning sources and concerning levels of exposure to noise. The directive would also focus on providing "accurate and relevant information" to the public, she continued.

On the other hand, the commissioner carefully avoided saying whether she favoured the development of EU noise quality standards, which she said could conflict with the subsidiarity principle and would need to be based on a demonstration of "added value compared [with] action at the national or local level".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111. The web site includes pages on EU noise policy.

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