SINGAPORE - Noise-dampening wheels may be used on trains plying the new Jurong Region Line (JRL), as part of the Government's efforts to tackle transport noise pollution at an earlier stage, but property developers should also play their part, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Friday (Oct 18).
While advancements in technology that can reduce the noise generated by contact between the trains and the tracks are being monitored, transport noise cannot be completely eradicated, he added.
"Developers know about our rail and road projects years in advance of their construction," said Mr Khaw, adding that they can take steps to address noise at the outset and design away the disamenities.
"Developers should also alert potential buyers to the potential noise disamenity."
Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, was speaking during a visit to a Housing Board carpark in Cheng San on Friday to observe how barriers built along MRT tracks have helped shield residents from train noise.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday awarded the third and final phase of its Railway Noise Barrier Programme - which began in 2013 to install noise barriers along MRT viaducts - to PBT Engineering.
The firm will build noise barriers along a 5.5km stretch at 16 locations, running from Jurong East to Khatib on the North-South Line (NSL) and from Pasir Ris to Kembangan on the East-West Line (EWL).
The third phase is targeted to be completed in 2023. When completed, the noise barriers are expected to reduce railway noise levels by five to 10 decibels, the LTA said.
With all three phases of the programme completed, there will be 27km of noise barriers at 61 locations on the North-South and East-West Lines, said Mr Khaw.
"LTA will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these noise barriers after implementation," he added.
But it is not easy to install noise barriers on a live MRT line, said Mr Khaw, noting that it requires "a herculean effort" to lift and erect the support columns on to the viaduct, which needs to be done carefully to avoid causing damage.
Also, there are other constraints, as noise barriers can be installed only late at night, during engineering hours after normal train services have stopped. This work also needs to compete with other maintenance and renewals for the same limited window of time.
While early closures and late openings have helped accelerate the installation of noise barriers by providing more track access time, Mr Khaw said it creates an inconvenience to commuters.
That is why the Government is taking steps to tackle the problem of noise pollution at an earlier stage, he added.
For instance, Mr Khaw said the upcoming JRL - a 24-station line that will begin construction from next year and open from 2026, serving residents in the Choa Chu Kang, Boon Lay and future Tengah estates - will be built overground with noise barriers.
The LTA is also considering the use of noise-dampening wheels and better lubrication for the JRL trains to minimise noise at the source.
A similar approach is adopted for major road projects, such as the Changi Northern Corridor, which will help improve connectivity for residents living in the Changi region and support the growth of businesses and jobs there.
"Noise barriers will be installed on the new viaduct along Loyang Avenue to mitigate the impact of traffic noise on nearby residences," said Mr Khaw.
There are two types of noise barriers installed under the Railway Noise Barrier Programme which is estimated to cost $300 million, depending on the noise level and the type of train tracks.
For example, noise barriers installed at turnout sections - where trains switch tracks - have a semi-enclosed "portal" design to handle the higher noise levels, while those along plainline or straight tracks are vertical.
The portal design for noise barriers is being built in the stretch of railway tracks between Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio stations on the NSL in the second phase of the programme.
The LTA started installing noise barriers at above-ground MRT tracks under the Railway Noise Barrier Programme in late 2013 for locations such as Admiralty, Marsiling, Sembawang, Ang Mo Kio, Pioneer and Yew Tee.
Noise barriers covering Lakeside and Boon Lay stations, Aljunied and Paya Lebar stations, and Paya Lebar and Eunos stations are already up, as are those in Redhill and Queenstown, Commonwealth and Buona Vista, and Clementi and Jurong East stations.
Construction of noise barriers is under way at Pasir Ris to Tanah Merah MRT stations in the east, and some parts of the stretch between Jurong East to Bishan stations on the North-South line will be completed in the third quarter of 2020.