Traffic noise in Hong Kong comes from two sources, new roads and
existing roads. The EPD has made good progress on the former by
providing input on the alignment of new roads. If an assessment
indicates traffic noise could exceed the noise limits, consideration
will be given to erect road barriers. The Government has spent about
$1.3 billion since 1990 on road barriers. Together with our professional
input provided at the planning stage of project development, these
preventive measures have protected some 690 000 people from traffic
noise. Low-noise surfaces have now become a standard practice for
high speed roads.
|Nearby residents are protected
against traffic noise from West Kowloon Highway through a landscape
buffer and noise barriers.
||Most existing roads have
technical constraints that leave virtually no room for retrofitting
Existing roads, however, are more difficult. Hong Kong has limited
land space. Buildings and roads sit close together, leaving little
opportunity for buffer space or the building of noise barriers.
Residents living next to busy roads typically are exposed to noise
levels over 75 decibels throughout the day, well above what is considered
excessive (70 decibels for six minutes in one hour). Long-term exposure
to too much noise can affect stress levels and psychological health.
The issue is therefore a priority for the EPD.
The department has endeavoured over the years to tighten controls
at source -- from vehicles -- and where possible install barriers
and low-noise surfaces on existing roads. In 2005 we packaged our
efforts together and identified future directions to give the community
a more comprehensive understanding of our strategies, and the public's
responsibilities in helping to make them work.
The EPD's first strategy in controlling traffic noise is prevention
through planning and the environmental impact assessment process.
The success of these efforts is described above, but there is always
room for improvement. Currently we are reviewing the noise practice
note on the design, development and redevelopment of residential
buildings. The aim would be to help developers take greater account
of road noise in their plans.
|A barrier extending from the podium
of a residential development protects residents from traffic
The second strategy is to control noise from individual vehicles
through legislation. Our vehicle noise emission standards follow
the European Union and Japan, requiring newly registered vehicles
to meet strict noise standards. However, even the best of these
vehicles will deteriorate over time and their noise levels will
increase. The problem is often the result of poor maintenance and,
in some cases, tampering. The EPD therefore is exploring with the
Transport Department whether noise maintenance should be a part
of the annual licensing process for vehicles.
Our most difficult work is addressed through our third strategy,
dealing with existing roads. We have three options: retrofit barriers
or enclosures, apply low-noise surfaces to the roads or introduce
traffic management measures. An abatement programme to resurface
suitable road sections over the territory provided noise relief
to some 50 000 people upon its completion in 1999. Further
programmes for retrofitting barriers or enclosures and applying
low-noise surfaces are currently underway and will protect 210 000
residents over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, these two measures
are applicable to only a fraction of noisy roads due to various
Some 30 roads are suitable for retrofitting barriers, an expensive,
time-consuming measure that started being implemented in 2004. Another
72 local roads are suitable for a low-noise surface, where work
has also begun. That leaves about 550 excessively noisy roads with
no technical solutions. Traffic management is the only option but
it is also problematic. A pilot programme in 2003 met with opposition
from the transport trade. Consequently, we have only been able to
implement one traffic management scheme. From July 2005, buses have
been banned from the Texaco Road Flyover from mid-night to 6am.
We are continuing to explore how to make traffic management a more
workable solution, but this will require greater co-operation from
the trade and the community.
The EPD endeavours to protect the community
from railway noise through legal standards and negotiations
with railway companies. A recent case, the Kowloon Canton
Railway Corporation's (KCRC) Ma On Shan Rail, demonstrated
that these efforts can contain noise and build the capacity
of rail operators.
The KCRC was asked to do all it could to contain
rail noise and so it commissioned the quietest possible railway
for this project. Extensive noise reducing features have been
applied to the tracks and trains and underneath the passenger
platforms. As a result, train noise has been reduced by 10-15
decibels, bringing it to well within the limits of the Noise
Control Ordinance although not eliminating it entirely.
The Ma On Shan line was commissioned in November
2004 and in its first year received 62 complaints, all but
two of which were lodged during the first six months when
people were adjusting to the new rail sounds. The situation
was helped by the KCRC's public education efforts, as the
company sought to inform residents of the measures taken to
reduce railway noise and help them better understand the noise
situation in the area. The KCRC has now been invited to share
its experiences with its counterparts on the Mainland.
A cross-section of the Ma On Shan Rail viaduct shows noise
reducing features: rail configuration, train skirts and
other noise reducing devices.
A Ma On Shan Rail train with noise-reducing skirts.
Noise barriers have been installed along the rail line
and under the platforms.
This need for community support leads into our fourth strategy,
public education and partnership. The EPD has been innovative in
advancing public understanding of noise issues. We have developed
a 3-D tool to demonstrate visually how road noise will affect a
development. Viewers can zoom in on a single flat and see how that
flat is affected. The tool was used in consulting the community
for the first time in 2005, to a highly favourable response (see
box). We also have an interactive
noise education web page that informs people about the various
sources of noise in Hong Kong and our programmes to deal with them.
|Good driving habits help reduce traffic
Education also requires us to raise awareness among operators.
We are developing "Practice Guides" that encourage operators
to take responsibility for reducing their noise. This will involve
a degree of partnership in terms of supporting noise producers and
understanding their constraints. Bus companies, for instance, could
be asked to train their drivers to avoid heavy, noisy braking in
quiet residential areas. Heavy vehicle operators could be asked
to maintain their vehicles better, as rattling loose parts can be
a source of irritating noise. Moreover, we are investigating the
possibility of asking developers to disclose more information about
noise in new residential developments.
is also an element in our fifth strategy, research and development.
This is a new field in our efforts to control noise. The EPD is
looking to academics and local professionals to help devise home-grown
technological solutions for noise. Our initial focus is on low-noise
surfaces, which currently have to be imported.
The EPD has done well to maintain the number of people exposed
to excessive traffic noise to one million these past 15 years, given
population growth, vehicle growth and the creation of new developments.
The future, however, is less certain. By 2016 the population exposed
to excessive traffic noise would be substantially increased as compared
to the situation in 1997, if no further measures are in place. Hong
Kong needs individual vehicle owners, bus drivers, developers and
others to accept responsibility for the noise problems they create.
The EPD's package of five strategies provides a framework for promoting
responsible behaviour and public understanding of our efforts as
we try to reduce the traffic noise pressures suffered by one in
seven Hong Kong residents.