Reducing Noise and Vibrations in rail transport is a priority for the European Rail Supply Industry and the European Union
In recent years, the awareness among European politicians and policy-makers has grown regarding the negative health effects caused by environmental noise. Although train noise is much less intrusive than noise from the road and air sectors, the rail sector is committed to further reducing noise. One way to create the conditions for railway traffic to grow, without risking human health because of increased noise levels, is to control and limit the noise emission of railway vehicle.
European Union Policies
Noise represents also the most important external cost of rail transport. In the framework of the Greening of Transport Package, the Commission published a communication on rail noise in July 2008. The Communication foresees the retrofitting of freight wagons with composite brake blocks that considerably reduce noise emissions. Furthermore, in the Recast of the First Railway Package, the introduction of noise differentiated track access charges was foreseen.
UNIFE welcomes the introduction of noise differentiated track access charges. This should be done in parallel to the internalisation of external costs in other modes of transport. Noise differentiated track access charges are a useful tool to reduce noise emissions and provide market based incentives for further technological developments.
In order to reap those benefits fully, overall noise reductions should be the aim. An overly narrow focus on single braking technologies may thus ultimately prove counterproductive. In the same vein, focus on track and wayside measures should also obtain its due share of attention in the effort of reducing noise emissions from freight trains.
Technical progress needed
As the EU has set ambition targets to improve interoperability, increase the capacity and ensure the future competitiveness of rail transport, noise is one of the key concerns. The noise issue has, in many previous studies, been identified as one of the most important obstacles to get public acceptance for new lines or increased traffic of existing lines – not the least for freight traffic which generally creates more noise than other traffic and often also operates at night. The greening of the transport sector is another EU objective, which goes hand in hand with the noise mitigation initiatives. Therefore, there is a need to improve European railway standardisation and research activities regarding noise in the upcoming years.
UNIFE members dedicate their efforts in standardisation of separation techniques for vehicle vs. infrastructure noise together with an enhanced cooperation with the European Railway Agency and the other European railway associations and with strong participation in the Shift2Rail joint undertaking for rail research. The challenge is important but cooperation will lead to a less noisy and sustainable railway.
To access UNIFE's position paper on noise (31.07.2007) please click here
To access the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on rail noise please click here.
For more information please contact:
Head of Unit - Technical Affairs
+32 2 626 12 62