Bullet trains may not impact horses, report suggests
January 19, 2016
• But basic research is not there, it says
• “The project does not support specific recommendations for the California HSR system”
If built, California’s high-speed bullet trains may be able to coexist with the horses of the Central Valley’s farms and ranches, suggests a new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.
The primary finding from the study is that very little research has been conducted concerning the possible impact of HSR systems on horses and equine facilities and recreation, suggesting that very few (if any) examples of such conflict exist. The existing related research has tended to focus on the effects of jet aircraft on wildlife, rather than on high-speed trains and livestock.
“Our team conducted an extensive search of various electronic bibliographic databases to identify relevant research,” says Peter Haas, the report’s author. “In addition to academic sources, we also sought other sources of systematic research, such as government reports, to help identify the current state-of-the-art knowledge in this specific subject area. Because no original research was conducted, the project does not support specific recommendations for the California HSR system.”
They have summarized a review of existing scholarly and professional literature regarding the possible impacts from high-speed rail (HSR) routes on surrounding equine populations and equestrian recreation.
The following are the report’s general findings:
• Existing HSR lines operate below noise levels that would directly harm horses, and damage to horses has not been documented.
• Loud noises could potentially startle horses, which could have detrimental effects on the well-being of horses and their riders. However, estimates of the amount of noise that might startle horses are rough, and virtually no systematic research has been conducted to establish such criteria.
• The very few studies that seem the most relevant – i.e., those that explicitly seek to address the link between noise and a response from horses – uniformly conclude that horses tend to “habituate” to regularly repeated noises. However, this response pattern appears not to have been subject to systemic testing regarding the noise produced by high-speed trains.
• Perhaps most definitively, in commenting on a HSR proposal in the UK, the International League for the Protection of Horses has stated that “horses usually became habituated to repeated noise including that from passing trains, although it is acknowledged that there may be a short period of adjustment.”
While construction on the system is underway in the Fresno area, funding to complete the rail network has not been found by the state. In addition, numerous lawsuits are seeking to stop the project entirely.