The day-to-day running of the railway generates a certain amount of noise and vibration – find out what to expect and what to do if it’s affecting you
On this page, you can read about noise and vibration from the regular running of the railway. Our work to improve and maintain the railway can also generate noise.
If you’re looking for information about work on the railway near where you live, please visit your local route's web page by clicking on the route that's closest to your home on our online map.
We regularly review the state of the tracks and carry out maintenance work to improve them where necessary, so it’s unlikely that the condition of the tracks would cause vibrations that damage nearby buildings.
If you’re concerned that vibrations from trains running near your property are causing structural damage, we recommend that you get a report from an independent surveyor. We’ll investigate if the report agrees that train vibrations are causing damage, but we do need to see an independent report, so please get a surveyor involved before getting in touch with us.
Noise levels vary depending on the circumstances – for example, open countryside allows noise to travel further than hills, frost makes the ground hard so it can’t absorb noise, and fog prevents noise from dispersing into the sky.
If you get in touch with us because you’re concerned about noise levels, we’ll let you know what’s causing it and give you an idea of how long it’s likely to last. And if we need to take action to reduce it, please be assured that we will do.
Excessive noise may be caused by a problem with a specific train or track. We own and manage the rail network but we don’t run trains, so while we’ll do everything we can to give you advice and help investigate train movements, we usually have to work with the train company and local authority, which means we can’t take any specific action to resolve the problem.
Most of the noise that comes from a level crossing is caused by vehicles crossing it. Noise is also generated by some of the safety alert equipment that is installed. Although we can sometimes reduce noise by making the crossing smoother, it can rarely be eliminated completely.
Track alarms are vital for keeping passengers and our workforce safe and they should only sound for a short time. Please get in touch if you’re concerned about the noise being made by railway alarms.
We need to provide safety warnings to people who are on or near the tracks – they’re a vital safety feature of trains that run on our network. However if you’re affected by train horns, please get in touch with us.
Whistle boards are used at footpath crossings where pedestrians can’t see approaching trains. When the train passes a board, the driver must sound the horn so that pedestrians know a train is coming. Apart from in emergencies, drivers are instructed not to use horns at whistle boards between midnight and 6am.
Although we’re trying to reduce the number of whistle boards, we can’t remove them where they help to keep pedestrians safe.
Railways Act 1993
Parliament has always recognised that railway operations can give rise to a degree of unavoidable noise and disturbance. For this reason section 122 of the Railways Act 1993 provides Network Rail and train operators with a statutory defence to proceedings for nuisance. Ordinarily this would cover claims alleging excessive noise or vibration.
However, this defence is not unqualified. if the complaint refers to noise from railway premises, the operator must demonstrate that they have used ‘reasonable diligence' to control the noise or vibration if they are to claim the statutory immunity defence. This applies, for example to allegations of nuisance from a platform loudspeaker or from a lift or plant room causing vibration or noise.