Train Horn – Broader Social Effects and Pedestrian Simulations

Train horns are used at railway level crossings as one of the controls to ensure the safe traversal of road users. However, train horns are very lout and have negative impacts, particularly for residents living near rail lines, with many reports of disrupted sleep patterns and the like. Limited information is available on these negative effects in the Australasian environment. Part of this project will therefore study the broader effects of train horns on residents living near rail locations where train horns are used. It will provide baseline information on the effects of train horns on residents and provide opportunities for further research on alternative technologies.

This project will expand on an earlier Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) train horn effectiveness study based on driving simulator experiments and look at the effectiveness of train horns in warning pedestrian road users of approaching trains. This work will be conducted using virtual reality (VR) equipment and the experimental design will be informed by earlier ACRI research. It will investigate train horn effectiveness for a wide range of road users, and also explore broader community scenarios to inform transport industry organisations and policymakers of future train horn procedures and applications.

Project background

Train horns have additional effects other than improvements at railway level crossings and for road safety. Noise-related complaints and disturbances have regularly been reported by members of the community to many railway organisations. The sounding of train horns at night often leads to sleep interruption complaints, particularly in built up environments.

Despite this, there is very limited objective evidence of the direct cause and relationship of disruption between critical safety elements such as the train horn. This study looks to address this with an objective approach.

The second part of this study will complete a series of pedestrian-based simulation experiments to fully understand the effectiveness and unintended impacts of train horns in the most common scenarios where humans interact with train horns as a warning device.

Project objectives

The principal objective of this project is to understand the effects of train horns on residents living near railway lines, assess the impact of train horns on sleep quality and contextualise the findings on sleep timing and functioning with environmental noise due to train horns.

The second objective of the study is to investigate how train horns are perceived by pedestrians and how they affect pedestrian behaviour around level crossings in terms of safety.

Funding / Grants

  • ACRI with iMOVE CRC (2022)