Throughout the latest legislative attempt to tighten EU traffic noise standards, NGOs have been stressing changes to the testing procedures should not be allowed to lead to weakening of the limits. In the past, proposals revising emissions standards have appeared on paper to be a tightening of existing limits, but in reality would have made no difference to noise levels being experienced by urban residents.
The European Parliament’s environment committee was due to vote on the Commission’s proposals in June, but the vote was postponed until this month to allow a compromise to be worked out. T&E exposed the compromise amendment as having been written by Hans-Martin Gerhard of the German sports car maker, Porsche. During a bad-tempered meeting of political groupings, Miroslav Ousky, the Czech MEP who is steering the legislation through Parliament, defended the compromise as his own but failed to convince other MEPs. Further attempts to reach an agreement are planned for later this month.
Ouzký then held a news conference at which he accused T&E of trying to blackmail him by threatening to reveal Porsche’s links with the compromise unless he tightened the noise limits. He said he had only taken a Porsche template and put different figures into it, but gave no electronic proof to back his statement. T&E rejected the accusation of blackmail, adding: ‘We had no contact with Mr Ouzký – he and his compromise have been discredited, not blackmailed. If he feels intimidated by us, it is because we have exposed his bias.’
T&E’s Greg Archer said: ‘The whole point about revising the current noise regulations is to encourage a progressive tightening of standards, not a weakening. Limits need to be set that encourage noise levels around roads to go down, not up! These totally biased proposals from Mr Ousky would lead to existing 15-year-old noise limits being dramatically loosened, and many vehicles would be exempted from regulations for years. Unsurprisingly, they also include extra allowances for sports cars. This would be the first time in the history of EU environmental legislation that current standards, already met by all vehicles, would be weakened.'
Porsche has a history of trying to weaken noise limits. In 2009 it tried to influence the United Nations’ regulatory body on noise by proposing standards that, if adopted, would have made it possible for cars to be up to 10 times louder than currently allowed. And in June, Hans-Martin Gerhard suggested that protecting residents from traffic noise should be done by forcing councils to build huge noise barriers and redesigning urban areas.
The environment committee is now expected to vote on the proposals on 10 October.