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‘QCITY’ and ‘SILENCE’ – EU projects target urban noise

Research activities with a strong focus on reducing road and other transport noise have been launched under the Sixth Framework Programme. QCITY and SILENCE will result in major improvements in efficiency and quality of life, especially in European cities.

City traffic at night © Peter Gutierrez
© Peter Gutierrez

Environmental noise has become a serious societal problem in many industrialised countries. It has been estimated that more than 90 million people in the European Union suffer from unacceptable noise levels and a further 180 million live in so-called ‘grey areas’ where noise can cause serious annoyance. The main contributor to environmental noise, defined as outdoor human-generated sound that can be heard in domestic environments, is transportation, particularly road traffic.

QCITY (Quiet city transport) is a new EU-funded project focusing on noise propagation and reception in urban areas. Taking a medium-term approach, the project aims to provide local communities with powerful tools for more effective policy making on reducing the harmful effects of sound due to road and railway transport.

EU Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49 In May 2002, the Council of Ministers formally approved the EU Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC). Now being implemented in the EU Member States, the Directive is a direct result of the 1996 Noise Policy Green Paper and covers the assessment and management of transportation and industrial noise. It requires that noise maps and action plans be developed for:
  • Agglomerations with populations greater than 100 000;
  • Major roads carrying more than 3 000 000 vehicles per year (approximately 8 000 per day);
  • Major railways carrying more than 30 000 trains per year;
  • Major civil airports providing for more than 50 000 flights per year (approximately 135 per day).

Taking a broad approach

QCITY will propose a broad catalogue of experimentally validated technical solutions and will address the cartography of noise, developing noise maps and action plans as envisaged by EU Directive 2002/49 (see box).

About thirty partners from ten countries will work together for four years, starting with an inventory of existing solutions and identification of weak points. They will then propose improvements and develop and test prototypes. Specific areas of interest will include:

  • Transport intermodality;
  • Restriction of circulation;
  • Road coatings;
  • Architecture and town planning;
  • Incentives for the use of quieter vehicles;
  • Hybrid vehicles;
  • Guided collective transport.

Nine sites have been selected for testing new schemes and prototypes:

  • Antwerp will test a system of quiet buses;
  • Athens will test antivibratory tram soundproofing;
  • Augsburg will implement new city planning measures;
  • Brussels will test quiet trams on quiet rails;
  • Caen will look at guided tram-bus vehicles;
  • Gothenburg will test poroelastic road coatings;
  • Ostend will implement new freight operations in a harbour environment;
  • Stockholm, site 1 will test new traffic control measures;
  • Stockholm, site 2 will test new suburban trains;
  • Stuttgart will implement restrictions on heavy lorries.

Quiet vehicles and new tyre designs will also be tested in various cities. All results will be published on a dedicated Internet site. The first QCITY meeting took place in Athens in September 2005.

What is SILENCE?

The EU-funded SILENCE project (Quieter surface transport in urban areas) is addressing urban noise issues from first principles, taking a longer-term scientific perspective. Partners aim to develop integrated methodologies and technologies for improving the control and coordination of surface transport, to reduce human-generated noise in urban areas. Issues to be covered include:

  • Control of noise at the source;
  • Noise propagation;
  • Noise emission;
  • The human perception of noise.

The SILENCE project will provide relevant technologies, innovative strategies and concrete action plans for urban transport noise abatement along with practical tools for their implementation.

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