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At 130 decibels, the blast from a Metro Train's high horn up close is louder than a jackhammer, a lawn mower or a rock concert.
Imagine that blast going off outside your window 10 times an hour, all night.
Then you will understand why Northcote's Harry Blutstein and many other Melburnians who live near train stations are sleep-deprived now that 24-hour train services have started.
The state government's $80 million trial of all-night public transport services at weekends will run throughout this year before being reviewed.
Professor Blutstein, who lives on Railway Street near Merri Station, says a year is too long to put up with interrupted sleep before having the chance to give feedback.
The daily commuter on the South Morang line has been dropping leaflets in his neighbourhood to garner support for so-called quiet zones to be introduced, as has been done in Canada, Europe and the United States.
The state government's trial of all-night public transport services at weekends will run throughout this year before being reviewed. Photo: Luis Ascui
The professor, an author and noise pollution consultant, says there is no need for high horns in small suburban stations at night where there are other safety measures such as automatic booms gates, lights and bells.
He says sleep deprivation is a public health issue that is particularly damaging for children, who spend more time in bed than adults and need their rest.
"The anxiety that comes with trying to get back to sleep while also anticipating the next horn has a psychological impact."
Illustration: Matt Golding
Metro Trains have two types of horn, high and low, and drivers use them as a safety warning. High horns on rolling stock built in the past decade are even louder than those of older trains, causing more noise complaints.
"If you live near a station you've got to expect noise, but a lot could be done to reduce it, especially from the high horns," Professor Blutstein says. "Metro Trains don't because there is not a dollar in it."
Another Northcote resident, lawyer Nick Karamouzis, said noise from the station had been getting louder since automatic announcements, extended hours and the high horn were introduced.
"I've been living here since 1993 but never had this level of disturbance," Mr Karamouzis said. "As night time approaches I feel tired but anxious that I'm not going to get any sleep."
"It's bad enough during the week, at least I get a four-hour window with no trains, but with the all-night trains I can be up for hours."
A spokesperson for Public Transport Victoria said it understood extra services would increase rail noise, but it had already tried some limits such as reducing announcements at stations during Night Network hours.
However, they said sounding the train horn was a critical safety measure, particularly at night, and it needed to be loud enough to be heard over other noise, such as car stereos and music headphones.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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