12/12/2013

Geneva: no noise from transport?

The study showing how many people may claim for excessive noise is reported everywhere except in this paper. Is noise no problem in Geneva?


On the main Swiss Romande TV news journal, 7h30 pm on Wednesday 11 December, the main item was a report from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (OFEV) which calculated the number of residences in Switzerland suffering from excessive noise. Their estimate was of 800,000 residences near noisy roads, 80,000 near trains and 32,000 near aircraft.

The report caused great interest because it suggested that if there is no solution to their problem before 2015 for road noise or 2018 for other types of noise, the people concerned could claim compensation, which could go as high as 19 billion Swiss francs.In terms of aircraft noise, OFEV made a simulation of the situation at Zurich airport, which came up with a figure of 405 million Swiss Francs.

In the newspapers of this morning, 12 December 2013, this news was picked up and reported by almost all of the newspapers of french-speaking Switzerland which are most read in Geneva. In addition, one can go onto the Web sites of these newspapers (Le Temps, 20 Minutes, Le Courrier), type a seek on "bruit" and find the information.

The exception seems to be this newspaper, the Tribune de Genève, which has absolutely nothing about the subject. It rather tends to strengthen my feeling that the newspaper does not want to deal with a subject like noise which affects Geneva. Maybe, someone there thinks that if no-one talks about it then everyone will think that there is no real problem.

In fact, there is surely a problem. Although, overall, road noise is much more prevalent than other noise, most places in Switzerland do not have any airport with noisy jets near them. Thus, a fair proportion of the 32,000 people suffering excessive noise might be around Geneva. In turn, comparing to the possible compensation upper limit of 405 millions for Zurich airport, one could easily be thinking of a sum of at least 100 million for Geneva.

Geneva centre also has a lot of road noise areas. I remember once being invited to dinner by someone living in a flat on the rue de la Servette, and wondering how I could put up with the constant noise.

There is a suggestion that the idea of one-off compensation payments should be discarded in favour of annual indemnities as noise compensation. This would have the advantage that successful efforts to reduce noise at source, rather than continuing to concentrate on soundproofing buildings, would reduce the payments.

Given the suggested figures for growth in aviation passenger traffic over the next few years, plus the fact that the design improvements to reduce significantly the noise of aircraft are unlikely to actually arrive before 2020, or even later, make the scenario not unlikely.

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