Waverton and Wollstonecraft rail noise

Community update on action to mitigate rail noise impacts on the Waverton and Wollstonecraft railway section.

suburban train pulling into a station

Sydney Trains operates the Sydney metropolitan rail network. The Waverton and Wollstonecraft railway section is located in a populated area, on some of the tightest curves on the network. These conditions generate high frequency rail noise when the wheel flange rubs against the rail and wheel squeal when the wheels stick and slip on the rail.  

Studies and mitigation strategies over the past two decades have looked at reducing rail noise impacts for nearby residents, and the EPA has engaged with the local community, including the Waverton Wollstonecraft Rail Noise Action Group (WWRNAG).

The EPA has required Sydney Trains to take action to address noise concerns, including pollution reduction programs to identify the cause and possible mitigation methods.

EPA Regulatory Action

In 2021, the EPA commissioned an independent rail noise specialist to conduct a review of Sydney Trains’ operation and maintenance of the rail network at Waverton and Wollstonecraft. Based on the findings, the EPA determined that

  • Sydney Trains had not performed appropriate rail head practices
  • rail maintenance had been inadequate and not substantially improved since 2016
  • the resulting rail corrugations and roughness were a primary cause of noise

The EPA issued  Sydney Trains with a Penalty Notice for failing to sufficiently maintain plant and equipment, which was a breach of their Environment Protection Licence conditions. 

Sydney Trains study and maintenance works

During 2021, Sydney Trains commissioned their own independent study of this railway section, examining rail acoustics, track engineering and wheel and rail dynamics to give further recommendations on noise mitigation measures. This report and the program of implementation was provided to the EPA in 2022.

As a result of regulatory action and studies, Sydney Trains undertook significant maintenance work, including

  • re-railing a section of standard carbon rail with head hardened rail
  • rail milling to remove all corrugation
  • rail grinding to correct rail profiles
  • installing additional Top of Rail Friction Modification (TORFM) units
  • trialling softer rail pads through the Wollstonecraft Station curve

This work aims to mitigate noise and serves as a foundation from which further works can be conducted.

Next steps

Sydney Trains is continuing to review its grinding regime to optimise the maintenance cycle. It has also identified that the shape of the rail in the area may be altered to reduce noise output and has committed to implementing these actions.

The works include

  • Adjusting the rate of change in height between the two rails lines in one of the curves along this section, which was completed in May 2023.
  • Implementing a five monthly rail grinding frequency and monitoring results to establish best practice.
  • Reviewing the shape of rails, including curve dynamics and lubrication, to determine if adjustments can improve performance. Phase One has been completed, and Phase Two recommendations are expected in late 2023.  
  • Developing a tailored strategy for the area, introducing target rail roughness levels and an adjusted maintenance schedule.

The EPA is continuing to monitor the progress of these strategies and Sydney Trains’ environmental performance.

Once the actions have been implemented, Sydney Trains will be required to conduct an assessment to determine their efficacy. The EPA will review the results and consider its next steps to ensure a positive outcome is achieved and maintained.

More information