EU citizens pay 20 times too much for traffic noise reduction

europebynight3Until 2017, European governments will be spending  125 billion euros for noise barriers, quieter roads and measures related to the negative effects of traffic noise, including damage to health. However, by simply making cars quieter, the total cost to the taxpayer could be reduced by a factor of twenty. All the more remarkable, then, that no legislation is forthcoming, says Paul de Vos, strategic advisor at engineering and consultancy firm Royal HaskoningDHV. De Vos was chairing a session on this subject at the Geluid, Trillingen en Luchtkwaliteit (Sound, Vibrations and Air Quality) congress in the Dutch city of Nieuwegein.

According to the World Health Organization, 210 million European citizens (44 % of the EU population) are exposed to traffic noise and risks to their health on a daily basis. De Vos: “It makes perfect sense for governments to invest in measures to limit noise. However, it can be done much cheaper.”

Making cars quieter

A study by research organisation TNO shows that the costs of making road traffic quieter add up to a total of 125 billion tax-payer euros. According to TNO, making cars quieter would cost the industry seven billion euros. De Vos explains: “For the consumer it comes down to the choice: either to add twenty euros to the cost of a new car, or pay an additional 400 euros in tax for noise barriers and healthcare costs.”

European noise regulations

The topic of noise limits for road vehicles was up for debate for the third time in Brussels, by three European institutions: The Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Dutch influence in the process is limited, De Vos recognises: “The Dutch government is subject to European regulations. In practice, the words of countries with large car industries carry the most weight in Europe. In addition, the car industry itself has a major voice in the discussion.” De Vos fears that the talks will only result in muddling through with the current policy. The European sound norms date from 1970 and have been modified three times since then, but to limited effect due to the test methods being modified at the same time.

Health risks

De Vos discussed how the actual standards will serve the public the most, Judith Merkies MEP, as well as Johan Sliggers, a policy coordinator at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and the 150 guests present at the noise congress. De Vos: “It is time that the 210 million European citizens are given a voice in this debate.”

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