More than 30% of EU citizens are exposed to road traffic noise levels above that which is viewed acceptable by the World Health Organisation, and that about 10% of the population report severe sleep disturbance because of transport noise at night. The application of road traffic noise mitigation measures to address the problem of road traffic noise is by no means fully developed. Several problems exist which interfere with the effective control of noise emission from roads.
In the EU Green Paper on future noise policy published in 1996, it is estimated that in Europe the external costs of traffic noise, which take account of factors such as quality of life costs and effects on health, are 0.2-2% of Gross National Product (GNP). In total, therefore, a rather significant part of the economy of Member States is affected by noise impact and noise reduction policies. In the same Green Paper, the significant potential for road traffic noise reduction by the use of special low-noise road surfaces was mentioned as a major issue.
The INQUEST project is building on the European project SILVIA (Sustainable Road Surfaces for Traffic Noise Control) completed in 2005, which has developed a Guidance Manual that aims to make it possible to derive the full benefit from this kind of noise control approach by using noise-reducing surfaces.
The general objective of the project was to foster the use of low-noise road surfaces throughout Europe by disseminating the tools developed by the European project SILVIA. Therefore the project pursued the dissemination of the knowledge, technology and guidelines developed by the SILVIA project as well as relevant aspects from other projects such as SILENCE, ITARI, IPG and Leiser Strassenverkehr. This was be achieved by means of workshops for decision-makers, road authorities, contractors, road engineers and policy-makers in European countries that were not involved in SILVIA. Priority was given to the new Member States, which, in general, have less experience in the field of traffic noise control.
A complementary objective of the INQUEST project was to promote European harmonisation of testing methods and equipment for this purpose. The project aimed to set up a users network and operate the equipment and procedures developed by SILVIA for classifying and labelling low-noise materials and technologies, testing their conformity of production, and certifying the testing and measurement apparatus. The purpose was to encourage European harmonisation of equipment and procedures and interchangeability of the results with a view to providing a strong base for the future standardising work at CEN level.
The expected benefits of the project include:
- The impact of the project is to develop the use of the principles and procedures of the SILVIA Guidance Manual as widely as possible across the EU. The project provided road authorities with the necessary tools to procure low-noise road surfaces and raise the awareness of the decision-makers about the benefits of implementing low-noise road surfaces while encouraging, as a result of the users group, an effective implementation. Road authorities are be better informed and aware of the potential benefit of resorting to low-noise surfacing technology so that they will support the necessary standardisation work. Due to the knowledge disseminated through the workshops and to the initiation of a users group, they will be able to send competent, motivated experts in the appropriate standardisation and regulation groups at national, as well as European, level.
- Acoustic classification, labelling and conformity of production procedures for road surfacing are currently on the agenda of standardisation organisations, namely ISO and CEN. In order to achieve a consensus on a standard, there are two basic prerequisites: namely that a majority of M
The project activities were organised into three work packages (WP):
- WP1 'Workshops': the organisation of regional workshops in six countries, with an invitation to the 14 neighbouring countries that were not involved in the SILVIA project. The programme of these workshops will mainly consist of presenting the most recent knowledge about using low-noise road surfaces for traffic noise control. It will also give local stakeholders a chance to present the views of their country;
- WP2 'Users Group': setting up a users network for the classification system proposed by the SILVIA project. The system associates a labelling (or type approval) procedure and a conformity of production testing procedures. It also includes certification procedures for the equipment used in the classification activity. Expertise can also be exchanged and developed within the group so as to prepare the ground for future CEN standards;
- WP3 'Management': this covered the general management of the project.
The dissemination workshops took place in several cities, namely: Ljubljana, Bucharest, Duebendorf, Brno, Lisbon and Athens.
In view of the evaluation, it can be concluded that the workshops were generally well attended and successful. In most visited countries the subject was largely ignored. The degree of satisfaction regarding the contents and the execution provide optimism on the impacts this dissemination will have on the actual implementation of the knowledge provided to the stakeholders in the participating countries.
The conclusion was that there is a need to move forward with a view to eventually issuing a European standard on the noise classification procedures of road surface products. The users group could possibly make use of the CWA - CEN working group agreement procedure to speed up things or just prepare the work with a view to a possible mandate given by the EC to the existing CEN/TC227 on 'Road surface materials', which could be taken in charge by CEN / TC227 / WGS 'Road surface characteristics'.
Eleven countries were involved in the SILVIA project namely Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Great-Britain, Norway, Italy and France. INQUEST added to this list six more countries namely Slovenia, Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal, Greece and Switzerland. The first expected impact is that the latter countries will be aware as were the SILVIA countries, of the cost-effectiveness of low-noise road surfaces as a traffic noise control measure that can be used in the action plans required by the Environmental Noise Directive.
For this type of action to be effectively implemented, one of the prerequisite is that it would be possible to specify a low-noise surface in a contract and that performance of the laid product could be easily and accurately verified. The second expected impact of the project, namely thanks to the users' group that has been set up, is to stimulate the harmonisation of the ways low-noise surfaces are classified for contractual purposes throughout Europe so that contractors could better sell their products and technologies across the borders.