Themes: Cargo
15. November 2016

Important legislation on banning noisy freight wagons from 2020

Rail sector criticises concessions to the EU that will disrupt operations

A freight train being retrofitted with low-noise brakes. This costs the owners of freight wagons money and they are therefore expecting the legislation to completely exclude noisy goods wagons. However, the EU is refusing to allow a complete ban on noisy freight wagons.
A freight train being retrofitted with low-noise brakes. This costs the owners of freight wagons money and they are therefore expecting the legislation to completely exclude noisy goods wagons. However, the EU is refusing to allow a complete ban on noisy freight wagons.

Berlin, November 15, 2016. The German Pro-Rail Alliance has welcomed draft legislation put forward by German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt banning noisy freight train wagons after the end of 2020. “It is important that this law finally brings relief to the noise-plagued people who live near railway lines,” said the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, on Tuesday in Berlin. “The Pro-Rail Alliance has for years been committed to completely upgrading the rail freight wagon fleet to cut noise levels, and supports the target of halving rail noise by 2020,” said Flege. The legislation is also long overdue because the German owners of freight wagon, who have invested considerably in the expensive retrofitting of low-noise brakes, require legal certainty. “A strict and unequivocal ban on noisy freight wagons in Germany is the rail sector’s stated wish,” said Flege.

Criticism of exemptions to the ban on noisy freight wagons

The non-profit transport association criticised the exemptions in the current draft legislation. Although there is to be a general ban on noisy freight wagons, they could be allowed to operate in exceptional circumstances by limiting their speed. Such exemptions are intended to avoid conflicts with EU law. “The draft legislation is trying to achieve a reduction in the noise burden on local residents without coming into conflict with EU regulations. This is a balancing act that could have unpleasant side-effects,” warned the Pro-Rail Alliance’s managing director. “Speed limits on freight trains with noisy wagons will reduce noise emissions but that will cause congestion on the network.” This would make rail freight transport inefficient, particularly on busy main routes, and benefit road freight transport, which already enjoys policy advantages. “Of course, it cannot be the aim of noise abatement policies to cause a shift in freight transport onto trucks, increasing noise levels on the roads,” complained Flege.

Federal government should strive for EU-wide ban

The transport ministry would therefore be well advised to seriously re-evaluate these details. “A clear ban on noisy freight wagons without the highly complex exemption rules, which will clearly disadvantage rail freight transport, would be the best solution,” said Flege. “If EU regulations mean that German legislators cannot completely exclude noisy wagons from the German rail network, the transport ministry should include other measures to effectively deter noisy freight wagons without having slow trains congesting the system.” One idea would be to impose a noticeable levy on top of track access charges for the option of operating a slow freight train, taking into account the extra work required for drawing up the timetable, suggested the Pro-Rail Alliance manager. “At the same time, the German government should strive for an EU-wide ban on noisy freight train wagons after 2020, doing away with the need for complicated national exemption rules.”

 

Additional information:

Pro-Rail Alliance statement on banning noisy freight train wagons (German)

How progress can be made: Seven Steps on the Way to Low-Noise Rail Freight Traffic

Overview: information on railway noise emission and noise abatement measures (German)