The principal source of rail noise is the rail-wheel interaction. This problem concerns of course both the transport of passengers and freight, but it is much acute for freight wagons.
To reduce rail noise at its source the Commission adopted in 2002 a decision concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the "Rolling stock" including noise limit values for high speed trains.
For the conventional rail, the Commission adopted on 23 December 2005 a decision concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the noise of rolling stock, published in OJ L 37 of 8 February 2006. This Decision introduced for the first time noise limits for rolling stock used in the European Union. These limits apply to new and renewed rolling stock including freight wagons. New freight wagons have to be equipped with low-noise brake blocks (such as so-called K-blocks) reducing the noise by about 50%.
However, due to the long lifetime of rolling stock (and the logarithmic nature of noise), it will take several years before the overall noise emissions from freight trains can be reduced significantly if no additional measures addressing the existing fleet are introduced.
In this context the European Commission recently adopted a Communication on rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleet as part of the 'Greening Transport' package.