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Reduction of railway noise

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.

In the context of the railway interoperability Directives (Directive 96/48/EC and 2001/16/EC, now replaced by Directive 2008/57/EC ) and in order to reduce rail noise at its source, the Commission adopted on 23.12.2005 Decision 2006/66/EC concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the noise of rolling stock (TSI Noise). This Decision introduced for the first time noise limits for conventional 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 reducing the noise up to 50%. This TSI was repealed by a new TSI Noise adopted on 4 April 2011 (Decision 2011/229/EU ). Noise of high-speed vehicles is covered by a Commission Decision of 30.05.2002 on technical specification for interoperability relating to the rolling stock sub-system of the trans-European high-speed rail system (Decision 2002/735/EC ).

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 has adopted a Communication on rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleet as part of the 'Greening Transport' package where the concept of noise differentiated track access charges (NDTAC) was put forward as the main tool to help to reduce railway noise.

An introduction of NDTAC as an incentive to retrofit freight wagons with low noise brake blocks can be considered as the first step to internalisation of the cost of noise. This measure is reflected in Directive 2012/34/EC ("recast of the first railway package").

Furthermore, the Commission adopted on 19 October 2011 a proposal for a Regulation of the EP and Council establishing the Connecting Europe Facility (COM (2011)665/3 pdf - 383 KB [383 KB] ) with 31,7 billion € earmarked for transport projects. It allows the possibility to co-fund retrofitting of existing freight wagons with silent brake blocks by the EU (proposed at max 20% of eligible costs). The proposal will be adopted by the Parliament and the Council in 2013.

Finally, in order to explore all possibilities for noise reduction without hindering the competitive position of the railway sector, the Commission will launch in 2013 a study to analyse the "Effective reduction of noise generated by railway freight wagons in use in the European Union". Possible legislative initiative may follow in 2014.

Workshop on rail noise

The Commission organised a workshop on rail noise on 27 April 2010 which was attended by about 70 experts from the Member States, the rail sector, manufacturing industry and the European Railway Agency.

Programme, conclusions and presentations

Related documents

Greening Transport Package

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - Rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleet COM(2008)432 of 8/7/2008

Greening transport Package website

Public consultation

Summary of the contributions pdf - 56 KB [56 KB] received to the public consultation on "Rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleets"