EPRSLibrary By / August 29, 2013

Railway noise mitigation

Rail noise represents a serious risk for citizens´ health in the European Union. The main source of rail noise emissions…

© slocummedia / Fotolia
Children enjoy a passing train on a warm sunny afteroon.
© slocummedia / Fotolia

Rail noise represents a serious risk for citizens´ health in the European Union. The main source of rail noise emissions lays in the rail-wheel interaction both in passenger and freight wagons. However, this problem is often largely associated with rail transport of goods. According to European Environment Agency, rail noise affects about 12 million EU inhabitants at day time, with a noise exposure above 55 dB(A), and about 9 million at night time, with a noise exposure above 50 dB(A). Starting in 202 with the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC), the issue of noise caused by rail transport has gained increasing attention in the field of sustainable transport. In 2005 the Commission adopted the Decision 2006/66/EC concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the noise of rolling stock (TSI Noise), and in 2008 the Communication on rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleet. However, due to the long lifetime of rolling stock, it will take many years before the overall noise emissions from freight trains can be reduced significantly if no additional measures addressing the existing fleet are introduced. In view of assessing whether promote or not a more specific legislative initiative on this issue, in April 2013 the EC launched a public consultation on the effective reduction of noise generated by rail freight wagons in the European Union. A study on this topic is also planned for 2014. Additionally, the European Commission has also adopted two recent measures. The recast of the first railway package. (Directive 2012/34/EU) foresees an optional introduction of noise-differentiated track access charges (NDTAC), while the a proposal for a Regulation establishing the Connecting Europe Facility (COM (2011)665/3) allocates substantial budget to transports that can also be used to cofound retrofitting of existing freight wagons with silent brake blocks. The ultimate aim of all those initiatives is to effectively reduce, by 2020, the level of noise of freight wagons in the EU, while maintaining the competitiveness of rail sector in relation to other transport modes.

The present keysource will provide supplementary general material for identifying what is at stake in this subject.


EU plan for quieter railways still not on track / EurActiv, May 2013
This thematic dossier argues that the shifting of freight transport from road to rail mode may be put at risk citizens’ health, unless effective mitigating actions will be implemented.

Reducing railway noise pollution/ European Parliament, DG IPOL study, 2012, 130 p.
This study lists measures, funding and regulations to reduce rail noise. Recommendations and case studies from different EU Member States are presented.

Railway noise in Europe/ International Union of Railways (UIC), 2010, 31 p.
This report provides a state of play of EU policy and national legislations concerning rail noise. It also deals with noise reduction technology, noise control strategy as well as incentives and policies for implementing retrofitting.


Charging the Polluters : A Pricing Model for Road and Railway Noise / Andersson, H; in Journal of transport economics and policy, 2013, v. 47, n. 3, pp. 313-333
The aim of this study is to present pricing models for road and railway noise based on the marginal cost principle that not only deal with the externality problem, but are also sophisticated enough to give operators of the infrastructure incentives to contribute to a more efficient resource allocation.

Examining nocturnal railway noise and aircraft noise in the field: Sleep, psychomotor performance, and annoyance / Elmenhorst, E.-M; Pennig, S.; Basner M. et al; in Science of the total environment, May 2012, v. 424, pp. 48-56
This field study carried out in Germany investigated railway noise-induced awakenings during sleep, night time annoyance and the impact on performance the following day. Comparing these results with those from a field study on aircraft noise allowed for a ranking of traffic modes concerning physiological and psychological reactions. It concludes that nocturnal freight train noise exposure in Germany was associated with increased awakening probabilities exceeding those for aircraft noise and contrasting the findings of many annoyance surveys and annoyance ratings of our study.

The real cost of railway noise mitigation – A risk assessment / UCI, 2013, 79 p.
This study commissioned by International Union of Railways (UIC) compares between vehicles related measures (for example brake shoe retrofitting), track related measures (for example rail dampers), measures in the propagation path (for example noise barriers) and measures at the receiver (for example double glazing).It concludes that the rail freight retrofitting is the preferred option.

UIP Symposium on Noise / UIP – International Union of Wagon Keepers , 2013
The proceedings of this conference covers three main topics: the latest development of noise policy at EU level, return of experience from retrofitting and implementing a national Noise Differentiate Track Access Charges Scheme, and the expectations of the Wagon Keepers towards finding a pragmatic policy solution with a financial framework that can provide an incentive for its members to retrofit their wagons as one of the objectives of rail freight noise reduction.

Studie zur Ermittlung von Transaktionskosten verschiedener Anreizmodelle für die Umrüstung der Güterwagen-Bestandsflotte auf Verbundstoff-Bremssohlen / KCW GmbH, 2011, 139 p.
This study founded by the German rail sector analysed transaction costs of different incentive models to retrofit freight wagons.  It also evaluated different bonus models of which the most effective one would be a model based on mileage and noise. The study is available in German only.

Good practice guide on noise exposure and potential health effects / European Environment Agency, 2010, 40 p.
This technical paper describes the current knowledge about the health effects of noise, particularly taking into consideration the Directive 2002/49/EC as well as the Night Noise Guidelines for Europe compiled by World Health Organisation.

Stakeholder views

European Commission

Answer to the written question on Public funding for rail freight transport noise reduction  (Michael Cramer- (Verts/ALE), January 2013

Answer to the written question on Reducing rail noise — Environmental Noise Directive and the use of LL brake-shoe inserts (Norbert Neuser – S&D), November 2012

Impact assessment study on rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleets / European Commission, 2007, 129 p.
Analysis of the answers to a questionnaire concerning rail noise affected population submitted to 26 countries.

Industry associations

Rail Forum Europe calls for realistic measures to reduce rail noise
This article summarises the exchange of views during the event “Wagon noise: on the way to remove the last rail environmental burden” held in the European Parliament on 29 May 2013. Views from the following stakeholders are provided: CER (the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies), ERFA (European Rail Freight Association), UIP (International Union of Wagon Keepers) and UNIFE (Association of the European Rail Industry), DB Systemtechnik GmbH, AAE

Comité de Liaison Européen des Commissionaires et Auxiliaires de Transport du Marché Commun (CLECAT) – European Shippers’ Council (ESC)
Position paper on estabilishing a Single European railway area. A specific point refers to the issue at stake: “CLECAT and ESC encourage the noise reduction of rail freight wagons as long as rules regarding noise levels would possibly not constitute immediate obstacles for rail transport. The new charging rules (with the introduction of noise-related modulation) should be pursued in order to make rail transport more appealing and therefore be designed to stimulate private investments in ‘greener’ and interoperable technologies”.

NGO views

Quite please Better health through strong EU regulation of road and rail noise / Transport and Environment (T&E); HEAL – Health and Environment Alliance, 2011, 20 p.
The authors describes potential supported mitigation actions such as the retrofitting of the existing rolling stock, the regular polishing of railway tracks, the charging of noise rolling stock. Policy recommendations are also illustrated.


Goods transport by rail / EUROSTAT, update 2010
This map shows volume of goods transport by rail in EU Member States. Data covering all the countries refer to 2010.

Modal split of freight transport / EUROSTAT, update at 30th July 2013
This table shows the dependence of goods transport on each individual mode. The indicator is percentage of road, rail and inland waterways transport in total inland freight transport (in tonne-kilometres). Figures for 2011 show that rail freight transport accounted to the 18.4 % in the total inland freight tonne-km in EU 27 countries.

EU programmes and projects

NOISE (Noise Observation and Information Service for Europe) database provides a picture of the numbers of people exposed to noise generated by air, rail and road traffic across Europe and in 102 large urban agglomerations.

STAIRRS – Strategies and Tools to Assess and Implement noise Reducing measures for Railway Systems.
This EU project funded also cofounded by the International Union of Railways (UIC) focussed on three main areas: Railway Noise Strategy Support System; Characterisation & Classification Methodologies; Consensus Building Workshops on Reducing Noise from Trains

Other projects

Europe Train
This project has been carried out by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and supported by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). During two years, the “EuropeTrain” project test freight train made up of 30 representative freight wagons from a number of European rail freight undertakings was equipped with LL-type composite brake blocks and operated over 200,000km across Europe. The final reports are available on the website.

Related legislative procedure

Proposal for a Regulation of the European parliament and of the Council establishing the Connecting Europe Facility  (procedure file 2011/0302 (COD)

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