The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published the “Noise in Europe 2014” report, presenting the exposure to noise levels and an warning on the resulting environmental health problems.
According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) report, railways are the second most dominant source of environmental noise in Europe, after roads and followed by airports and industry. In 2012, nearly 7 million people were exposed to levels above 55 dB Lden, considering people exposed both inside and outside urban areas, as reported by EEA in August 2013. Estimation — based on calculated figures complementing current reported data to estimate the overall number of people exposed — increases this figure up to nearly 14 million people, doubling the current reported data, with more than 4 million people estimated to be exposed to major railways transport outside urban areas and 9.5 million people estimated to be exposed to railways transport noise inside urban areas.
With current data reported, 74 % of nearly 4 million people are exposed to railways traffic noise inside urban areas below 65 dB Lden and solely 2 % are exposed to more than 75 dB.
The total number of people exposed to railways noise inside urban areas varies between the different countries submitting data in 2012. On average, at European level, 4.65 % of people living inside urban areas are exposed to railways traffic noise above 55 dB Lden, with Belgium, Finland, France and Norway having more than 5 % of their urban inhabitants exposed to railways traffic noise above 55 dB Lden, and Austria, Sweden and Switzerland more than 10 %.
The net change at European level of people exposed to railways traffic noise inside urban areas from 2007 to 2012 shows a decrease in the number of people exposed in all five noise bands. This analysis takes into account 68 urban areas with more 250 000 inhabitants that have reported information both in 2007 and 2012 (the incompleteness of the whole data set is an important factor to take into consideration when analysing trends, as they may vary when the complete data set is available). German urban areas, especially in the noise bands from 55–59 dB and from 60–64 dB, are those with higher influence in the overall results at European level, while on the other side, urban areas from Finland, Ireland, Spain and Sweden show a minor increase in the number of people exposed to railways transport noise inside urban areas.
Concerning noise from major railways outside of urban areas, the reported data indicates there are a little more than 3 million people exposed to levels above 55 dB Lden. This is likely to increase by about a third once assessments are complete for the full expected network of 40 066 km of railways with more than 30 000 train passages per year, however the data underpinning the extent of railways are also likely to be updated.
The reported data also indicate that the majority of people exposed to major railways outside urban areas are exposed below 65 dB Lden (85 % of the total population exposed to major railways outside urban areas in Europe). Nevertheless, in countries such as Finland, Ireland, Lithuania and Switzerland, this percentage is lower and, consequently, more people are exposed to values above 65 dB than the European average values.