Wednesday 16 July 2008

Couple bring court case over Luas noise claims

A couple whose home in south Dublin is close to the Luas green line have claimed before the High Court they have been exposed to very serious and aggravating noise on a daily basis since the Luas went into operation four years ago.

Paula and Vincent Smyth, of Cambridge Terrace, Leeson Park, Dublin, have brought proceedings against the Railway Procurement Agency and Veolia Transport Ireland Ltd, who operate the Luas on behalf of the agency. The Attorney General is a notice party to the case.

The couple want injunctions restraining the defendants operating the Luas in a manner that causes a noise nuisance and requiring them to erect an appropriate barrier to reduce the noise. They are also seeking damages.

The defendants deny the claims, contend the Luas is being operated in accordance with the terms of the Transport Light Rail Acts of 1996 and 2001 and also plead that the operation of the Luas under those Acts cannot as a matter of law give rise to the nuisance alleged.

Opening the case before Ms Justice Mary Laffoy today, Seamus Woulfe SC, for the couple, said their enjoyment of their home has been “severely undermined and compromised” due to noise from the Luas since it began operating in July 2004.

He said the Smyth’s back garden was in close proximity to elevated sections of the Luas Line running between Sandyford and St Stephens Green.

During the planning stages of the Luas in the late 1990’s the Smyths, who have lived at Leeson Park since 1992, believed special noise reduction screens would be erected at certain sensitive locations where the light rail would pass, counsel said.

The Smyths, based on an undertaking by RPA, had a legitimate expectation measures would be put in place to reduce noise levels to within acceptable levels, he said.

However, the failure to install the noise reduction screen had exposed the Smyths to very serious and aggravating noise which totally disrupted their enjoyment of their home. A tram passed their home 330 times between 5.30am and 12.30am every weekday and 254 times daily at the weekend.

The Smyths were unable to enjoy their garden or hold a conversation when a tram passes due to the noise. The glass in the kitchen area vibrated when a Luas passed and it was impossible to entertain guests, counsel said.

The most significant problem was that they were unable to sleep properly at night or in the early morning, he added. Their bedroom faced onto the Luas embankment and they regularly had to sleep with the windows shut and with ear plugs.

A consultant engineer who measured the noise levels from the operation of the Luas found those levels within their home exceeded acceptable or guideline measurements for residential areas. Counsel also argued the defendants did not have an immunity under the Transport Acts from being sued in the matter.

The case is expected to last several days.

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