Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Sound the alarm — Melbourne trains aren’t meeting national horn standards

Andrew Jefferson, July 17, 2017 6:40PM Herald Sun

Print Article

Trains at Richmond station. Picture: Jake Nowakowski media_cameraTrains at Richmond station. Picture: Jake Nowakowski


Reading level: red

BUST my buffers — it seems the horns on Melbourne’s trains don’t pass the sound test.

Testing on Metro’s suburban train fleet revealed none of its train horns fully meet Australian standards.

Train drivers have two types of horns — high and low — and drivers use them as a safety warning when passing level crossings, where cars and pedestrians cross train lines.

High horn blasts from Metro’s newer X’Trapolis trains recorded an average decibel limit of 110dB, exceeding the requirement of between 96dB and 101dB for an acceptable town warning device.

Decibels are the units used to measure sound level. A pin dropping is around 10dB and a rocket launch 180dB.

Melbourne’s train horns also fell below the minimum decibel limit of 106dB for a country warning device.

The noise at a sporting event is usually 105dB.

Northcote resident Harry Blutstein said he was bothered by train horns. Picture: Lawrence Pinder media_cameraNorthcote resident Harry Blutstein said he was bothered by train horns. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

It is current practice for drivers to use the high note horn in both urban and country areas, but Metro says this causes many noise complaints with its newer X’Trapolis trains.

The X’Trapolis horns are said to be “much more piercing and sharp in timbre* than the horns of other fleets”.

Metro Trains recently tested horns on six Comeng made trains, six Siemens, and eight X’Trapolis trains to see if they met the new Australian standard.

The results found none of the horns on the Comeng fleet met the requirements of a country warning device.

While the high note (99dB) met the requirements for a town warning device, measurements recorded outside the range prevented* this horn from being fully compliant*.

Cars crossing the train line at a level crossing. Picture: Hamish Blair media_cameraCars crossing the train line at a level crossing. Picture: Hamish Blair

The Siemens train produced the quietest sound of all three fleets with neither the high nor low note meeting the requirements of a town or country warning device.

The new X’Trapolis train also did not meet the standard despite considered being the most compliant — and loudest — of Metro’s fleet.

High (110dB) and low (106dB) note blasts exceeded the minimum requirement for a town or country warning device.

The sound of a jackhammer or rock band is usually 110dB.

Metro has recommended considering placing a restriction on loud high horns on X’Trapolis trains in urban environments to curb* noise complaints.

Trains at Mordialloc station. Picture: Chris Eastman media_cameraTrains at Mordialloc station. Picture: Chris Eastman

In place of the high horn, drivers are urged to use a third, softer pop horn.

The report said each horn mode on all fleet types showed significant variation* between units, which could be because of varying unit ages and that the horns may not be regularly tested or properly maintained.


timbre: quality of a noise

prevented: stopped

compliant: follows the rules

curb: reduce

variation: difference



Activity 1. Comprehension

What is the main idea of this story?

What are the acceptable decibel ranges for town and country warning devices?

Explain why you think it is important for the horns on our trains to be within a certain decibel range.

Put the other noises mentioned in the article in order from quietest to loudest.

Think about a time when you have been through a train level crossing. Aside from the train horn, are there any other warning signs that a train is coming?


The final sentence of the article gives some reasons why the variance between train horns may exist. Write down 3 specific actions that could help to solve this problem.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

Activity 2. You can quote me

Let’s imagine that the following fictional people were interviewed as part of the writing of this news article.
What do you think they would say? Each quote should be up to four sentences in length.

• Leni, a train driver who has been operating Melbourne trains for the past 25 years.

• Sal, a stay-at-home parent of a 3-month-old, who lives close to the train line.

• Willow, a car driver who passes through two level crossings on the commute to work each day.


Brainstorm a list of different noises that could be used as a warning in place of the usual train horn sound.
Which of your ideas do you think would be most effective and why?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)

Activity 2 VCOP extension

After writing your responses for the fictional people, pick one response and highlight all the VCOP (Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation) in your response.

See if you can replace one of your words with a more specific higher level word.







Extra Reading in news