Audit backs coal dust report

REVIEW: The data associated coal and freight trains with dust increases.COAL trains do not produce more dust pollution than other trains, an independent review of a report on dust emissions on the Hunter’s rail corridor has found.

University of Technology statistician Louise Ryan, who re-analysed data used in the second Australian Rail Track Corporation study of train dust emissions, concluded the study’s findings were correct.

The NSW chief scientist and engineer asked Professor Ryan to review the data used in the second report after concerns were raised about the quality of the statistical analysis used as the basis of the report’s findings.

Professor Ryan found both coal trains and freight trains were associated with a statistically significant increase (about 10 per cent) in particulate matter compared to background levels.

But there was no difference in the levels of particulates associated with loaded or empty coal trains or with freight trains.

‘‘There was no evidence that loaded coal trains produce more dust than empty coal trains,’’ Professor Ryan wrote in her summary.

‘‘In fact, while differences were not statistically significant, particulate levels associated with the passing of unloaded coal trains were higher than those associated with loaded coal trains and freight trains.’’

Environment Protection Authority chairman Barry Buffier said Professor Ryan’s report provided more clarity around the issue of particle emissions from coal trains.

“The primary objective for the EPA in relation to air quality in the Hunter is to ensure that it meets or is better than the national standards,’’ Mr Buffier said.

“While this particular report does not support the view that air quality would be significantly improved by covering coal wagons, it does provide the EPA with another useful piece of information that will add to our knowledge base of air quality in the Hunter Region.’’

Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesman John Mackenzie said the re-analysis proved people were right to be concerned about particle pollution.

“This analysis confirms what residents of the suburbs along the coal corridor have long known. Dangerous particle pollution increases significantly when trains pass through the residential areas where 14per cent of the Newcastle community live,” Dr Mackenzie said.

Community groups throughout NSW are gathering signatures on the Cover the Wagons petition, which is designed to trigger a parliamentary debate later this year.

Professor Ryan will present her findings at a meeting on March 12.

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