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KiwiRail investigates ‘lubrication strategy’ as loud noises keep Remuera residents awake

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Mon, 8 Apr 2024, 9:26am
The screeching noise started during the summer after Rail Network Rebuild work around Hobson Bay. Photo / KiwiRail 
The screeching noise started during the summer after Rail Network Rebuild work around Hobson Bay. Photo / KiwiRail 

KiwiRail investigates ‘lubrication strategy’ as loud noises keep Remuera residents awake

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Mon, 8 Apr 2024, 9:26am

KiwiRail is developing a “lubrication strategy” across the Auckland rail network as it fields complaints from Remuera residents about screeching trains crossing Hobson Bay and Ōrākei Basin. 

It follows a string of issues affecting passenger services, including heat restrictions, temporary speed limits, cancelled services and disruptions from the Rail Network Rebuild involving the replacement of railway foundations, tracks and sleepers. 

The grinding of rail tracks last November, after the network rebuild in the Remuera area, has caused “wheel squeal” – and plenty of squealing from residents overlooking the bay. 

“It’s like screaming banshees,” Remuera resident Allison Fisher said. 

The family’s home had double glazing that cut out most of the noise from passing trains, but the noise over the summer shattered their peace. 

A Burwood Crescent resident, who has lived in the Remuera area for 30 years and got used to trains crossing Hobson Bay, said the noise from the new tracks, when the trains resumed in January, was horrendous from early morning to late at night 

The woman, who did not want to be named, said the grinding, screeching, screaming noise was piercing to the point of disturbing sleep and, as one person put it, “like nails going down a blackboard”. 

Ōrākei Local Board member Margaret Voyce has dealt with several noise complaints, and local councillor Desley Simpson, Auckland’s deputy mayor, has posted a tongue-in-cheek social media image of a woman wearing headphones while a train crosses Hobson Bay in the background. 

KiwiRail metros general manager Jon Knight said wheel squeal was caused by friction between the train wheels and the top or side of the rails. It was exacerbated by dry conditions over the summer, which has led to complaints. 

It could also occur after the maintenance practice of grinding rail, but the temporary roughness reduced as trains passed over the track and wore it smooth within a few months. 

The rails were ground in November and the noise should have settled fully by the end of this month, Knight said. 

“This, along with the cooler, damper weather, should significantly reduce the noise issues. It’s important to note that noise in Hobson Bay can carry further, depending on the prevailing wind and whether it is high or low tide.” 

KiwiRail was also developing a rail “lubrication strategy” across the Auckland commuter network that included an understanding of where wheel squeal could occur, he said. 

“Lubrication is another maintenance tool that helps protect train wheels and the rail from wear and tear. 

“To a limited degree, lubrication will also reduce wheel squeal. Currently, KiwiRail can lubricate the track via a hi-rail vehicle and Auckland Transport’s trains can also release lubricant, though this is primarily to protect the train’s wheels.” 

With more trains running when the City Rail Link opened in 2026, it would be more difficult to use hi-rail vehicles, he said. Other options being considered included trackside equipment and train-based lubrication. 

Simpson said: “In short, noise is an issue but hopefully it will get better soon”. 

This story was originally published on the Herald, here

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