Noise barriers and no-work Sundays among measures taken

The sound barrier along Jurong East is placed along turnouts – where trains merge or change tracks – as noise levels at these places are higher than along straight tracks.
The sound barrier along Jurong East is placed along turnouts – where trains merge or change tracks – as noise levels at these places are higher than along straight tracks.PHOTO: ST FILE

There are measures already put in place to plan for, monitor and reduce noise levels in Singapore, said multiple government agencies.

At MRT tracks, around 10km of noise barriers have been put up at 16 locations - including Admiralty, Marsiling, Sembawang, Ang Mo Kio, Pioneer and Yew Tee - in the first phase of the $300 million project.

Originally slated to be completed in 2019, this was delayed until 2022, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced earlier this month. This is because the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had to "review the effectiveness" of the project's first phase.

Installation works for the remaining 10km of noise barriers in the second phase will start in 2020.

Said an LTA spokesman: "The installation of noise barriers requires complex and extensive retrofitting of existing railway structures and we need also to consider whether there will be enough space for railway maintenance works, and thus is not always possible."


Similar noise barriers have also been installed at two expressway viaducts - at Anak Bukit Flyover and a stretch of the West Coast Highway - as part of a trial to determine their effectiveness.

Residents interviewed gave mixed reactions when they were asked whether these barriers work.

Yew Tee resident Tan Liak Eng was hopeful when he first saw them appear on the MRT tracks next to his flat in 2015, believing the source of his nightmares was gone for good.

Today, the 61-year-old retail supervisor shakes his head whenever he sees the barriers. "I do not think that they have made a difference in lowering the sound level. It is the worst around 11pm to 1am, when I have to sleep," said Mr Tan, who has been living at Block 619, Choa Chu Kang North 7, for more than 15 years.

The LTA is also looking at ways to use a material on roads that can reduce the noise generated from the friction between surfaces and vehicle tyres.

While these are still being tested, other measures to control transport noise have been implemented.

Trains are fitted with noise- dampening wheels. The LTA also clamps down on vehicles with illegal modifications, which include modified exhausts. There were 1,161 such cases last year.

When it comes to construction sites and industrial premises, the National Environment Agency (NEA) actively enforces its maximum permissible noise limits.

Contractors have to set up real-time noise monitoring meters to continuously monitor the noise generated from their sites, said an NEA spokesman.

The Quieter Construction Fund, a $10 million co-funding scheme, allows construction firms to be reimbursed for up to half of the cost of purchasing or leasing quieter construction equipment, noise control equipment and other innovative noise-reduction solutions not yet readily adopted by the industry.

NEA also introduced a no-work rule on Sundays and public holidays in 2012 for construction sites located within 150m from homes and noise-sensitive premises such as hospitals.

Since then, construction noise-related complaints have dropped from an all-time high of about 19,800 in 2012 to about 10,400 last year, said the spokesman.

As for homes, HDB flats and private residential buildings have to follow development control parameters set by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

These rules address noise nuisances by specifying the placement and design of air-conditioning ledges, rooftop electric transformers and water tanks, for example.

For residences near roads and expressways, URA also mandates a "buffer distance" between the building and the road. The buffer distance ranges from 7.5m to 30m wide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Noise barriers and no-work Sundays among measures taken'. Print Edition | Subscribe