The Health Impact of Elevated Rail on Bayside Communities
The academic literature shows that proposed elevated rail bridges negatively impact the health of
individuals and communities. The World Health Organisation recommends ‘health in all policies’ which includes consideration of the health impacts of large infrastructure projects on populations (Leppo, Ollila,Pena, Wismar, & Cook, 2013.)
Elevated rail adjacent to residential areas increases noise and vibration, reduces natural light,
reduces property values, increases air pollution, impacts green space and clashes with local amenity. It also attracts crime, compromises safety and impacts the social determinants of health. All of these factors negatively impact health. A ‘rail under road‘ or ‘rail trench option’ will not have these deleterious effects on health.
Noise and Vibration
The literature indicates that noise and vibration increases significantly and travels greater distances
with elevated rail. Xia et al. (2009) reports noise concerns and vibration impacts on the environment and people near elevated rail. Research shows a link to sleep disturbance resulting in fatigue, impaired judgement, poor decision-making and an increased risk of occupational and road accidents. (Killgore, Balkin & Wesensten, 2006; Lamond et al; 2004.) Stickgold, Hobson, Fosse & Fosse (2001) state good quality sleep is a public health issue, essential for optimal health. Insufficient sleep is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression (Unruh et al. 2008; Babisch, 2006.) Passchier-Vermeer and Passchier (2000) associate noise with decreased school performance. The negative health impact associated with noise pollution from rail bridges will impact thousands of homes and community facilities such as schools, kindergartens, churches and aged care homes.
Elevated rail bridges will significantly overshadow homes. The impact of reduced sunlight on mental
health is well supported in the literature (Halpern, 2013.) Multiple studies assert that a lack of natural light increases the risk of mental health issues including depression and anxiety (Edwards & Torcellini, 2002.)
The Office of the Victorian Government Architects (OVGA) reported on lessons learned with level
crossing removals (2014.) They state that an elevated rail structure will have a significant impact on a place and is typically not a preferred solution. Elevated rail is often a cheaper solution but offers a poorer outcome for the community. Rail bridges also impact negatively on visual amenity, permeability, viability of activity areas and the value of land. Close proximity to rail infrastructure (particularly heavy diesel) reduces property values due to noise, visual intrusion and the perception of crime (Diaz, 1999.) These factors would be exacerbated by elevated rail. On the Dandenong line it is predicted that elevated rail sections are likely to reduce property values by 20-25% and negatively affect the revenue of small businesses (Zhou & Robb, 2016, Ferguson, 2014.) Uncertainty about income is proven to induce emotional strain, anger, anxiety and depression (Schonfeld & Mazzola, 2015.) In other contexts mortgage stress and financial strain is a risk factor for conflict, mental illness and domestic violence (Pattavina, Socia & Zuber, 2015.)
Elevated rail carrying diesel trains is likely to increase the amount and distance travelled of airborne
pollution because height facilitates greater drift. Diesel exhaust emissions contain hundreds of chemical compounds that are associated with irritation of the eye and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems (Balmes, 2011.) The long term effects of exposure to exhaust and brake particulate matter are poorly understood and therefore best avoided. (Morawska, Moore & Ristovski, 2004, Stenfors et al., 2004; Abbasi, Jansson, Sellgren & Olofsson, 2013.) The International Agency for Research on Cancer has recognised diesel exhaust soot as a carcinogen (Abbasi et al., 2013.)
Green Space and Amenity
Elevated rail bridges will negatively impact green space and clash with amenity in the Bayside
suburbs. This area along the line includes 40 km of beachfront, the Edithvale/Seaford ‘Ramsar Convention’ listed wetlands and a 2,070 hectare ‘green wedge’ in the city of Kingston alone. The positive link between green space and health is well documented and most apparent in the elderly and people of lower socioeconomic status, both already vulnerable sub-populations. (Maas, Verhiej, Groenewegen, De Vries & Spreeunwenberg, 2006; Mitchell & Popham 2008.) The visible and audible elevated rail will significantly reduce the health benefits of this green space.
Crime and Safety
Graffiti is a visible form of crime and considered a sign of social decline, representing a threat to
safety and quality of life (Morgan & Louis, 2009; Lorenc et al., 2013.) Elevated railway bridges and pylons attract graffiti because they are prominent, visible and easy to reach with limited surveillance. Controlling and removing graffiti in Australia costs $1.5 billion annually (Morgan and Louis, 2009.)This cost is expected to be borne by local councils along the Frankston line, creating further stress to residents. Railway bridges also attract anti-social behaviour such as dumping, drug use and loitering due to reduced lighting and limited surveillance. This impacts community safety and livability. Under-road stations are easier to illuminate and monitor and are less appealing for anti-social behaviour.
Social determinants of health (SDH)
The SDH will be negatively impacted by elevated rail. A Lancet Commission found that factors which
have the greatest impact on health are social and include community engagement, social inclusion and early life (Marmot, Friel, Bell, Houweling & Taylor, 2008.) Liveable communities create conditions that optimise health and well being outcomes by improving neighbourhood walk-ability, public open space and social facilities (Giles-Corti, Badland, Mavoa, Turrell & Bull, 2014.) An elevated concrete construction will divide communities and impinge on these conditions, negatively impacting the health and well being of the community.
We often assume that what is, has to be. In reality, virtually everything in our built environment is
the way it is because someone designed it that way. Researchers agree that the design of the built
environment holds tremendous potential to address health concerns including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, depression, violence and social inequity. In short, we have the capacity to build future communities that promote, rather than reduce, physical and mental health (Jackson, 2003.) The OVGA states that lowering a section of the rail corridor is the most supportable solution in most circumstances, is more discrete, has the least impact on the urban environment and improves social and economic outcomes (2014.)
The academic evidence portrays a strong case against elevated rail. A rail trench is the preferred
option for the Bayside suburbs on the Frankston line.
No Sky Rail: Frankston Line
October 27th 2016
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