The Tokyo District Court ordered Odakyu Electric Railway Co. on Tuesday to pay ¥11.52 million in damages to 42 people for noise caused by its trains on an elevated section in Tokyo but rejected residents’ demands for an injunction to stop the noise.
The rare decision awarding damages for conventional train noise could compel railways to take additional measures to abate noise caused by surface or elevated lines in big cities.
The noise, coming from a four-track section between Yoyogi-Uehara and Kitami stations on the Odakyu Odawara Line, made the residents “suffer damage exceeding tolerable levels,” presiding Judge Masatoshi Murakami said.
“Noise abatement was possible, given the technical standards (available),” Murakami said. “Even if (Odakyu) has taken such measures, it cannot help but be judged as acting illegally if the abatement was not actually achieved.”
The initial suit saw 118 plaintiffs seeking roughly ¥780 million in damages.
Odakyu expressed disappointment over the ruling, saying, “It is very regretful as we explained the effects of a major noise reduction to residents and the court and sought their support.”
The suit, initially filed in August 1998, followed a decision by the government’s Environmental Dispute Coordination Commission a month earlier that ordered Odakyu to pay damages to residents who suffered from noise levels of or greater than 70 decibels.
Residents involved in the litigation complained that the noise levels used in the commission’s decision were not satisfactory.
The government in 1994 approved an Odakyu plan to build elevated quadruple tracks on parts of its line to transport more passengers and reduce congestion on streets that intersect with the line.
Some residents brought a suit against the government to demand nullification of the approval, but they lost the case in a ruling finalized by the Supreme Court in 2006. The construction of the raised section was completed in 2004.
In the litigation against Odakyu, the plaintiffs argued their suffering exceeded tolerable levels, using World Health Organization standards.
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