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ÖBB reports on the conversion to quiet freight cars. How advanced is it so far?

ÖBB reports on the conversion to quiet freight cars. How advanced is it so far?
photo: Chris Zenz / ÖBB/ÖBB reports on the conversion to quiet freight cars. How advanced is it so far?
19 / 05 / 2022

ÖBB is working together with partners from science and politics to make rail operations quieter on many levels. In addition to further technical developments, the construction of noise barriers, the improvement of track systems, and the modernization of trains and wagons also significantly contribute to the goal of constantly reducing noise emissions for the people living along the lines.

With a media event today in Krumpendorf, the journey of a freight train with eight quiet and eight noisy wagons at 100 km/h, ÖBB showed what a difference the changeover from noisy to quiet freight wagons makes. In Austria, the changeover is already well advanced.

In 2021, 83% of freight cars on the Wörthersee line, which various national and international rail companies operate on, were already quiet. By the end of 2024, only quiet wagons will be allowed to run on the main lines, such as on the Wörthersee, due to the EU TSI Noise Directive. ÖBB Rail Cargo Group already operates almost exclusively quiet freight cars in Austria.

The complete changeover from noisy to quiet freight cars reduces noise by around 50 per cent

International experience shows that the complete changeover from 100% noisy to 100% quiet freight cars results in the pass-by noise level reduction measured directly on the track of around 10 dB. It is roughly equivalent to halving the perceived noise.

ÖBB / Chris Zenz

Franz Hammerschmid, Business Unit Manager of ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG: "By switching to quiet freight cars, we are sustainably reducing noise emissions for the residents along the line. Together with structural measures such as the erection of noise barriers, investments in track systems or targeted rail grinding, we have demonstrably reduced noise emissions at Lake Wörthersee in recent years and are continuing along this path. We understand the concerns of parts of the population that after 2025 there will be more freight traffic on the railroad. However, we also urgently request objectivity in the debate, as figures are repeatedly published that are frightening and not true. We are happy to engage in any discussion, but please do so based on facts. After 2025, according to current forecasts, around 97 freight trains a day will be travelling along Lake Wörthersee; figures that have been circulated that indicate far more than double this figure are not even possible on this route."

Peter Kaiser, Governor of Carinthia: "The conversion to quiet freight cars is an important and correct step that has long been necessary. Noise makes people ill, and therefore any measure that reduces freight rail noise is to be welcomed. On behalf of the residents, I would like to thank ÖBB for its efforts. Ultimately, comprehensive protection against freight rail noise can only be achieved with a dedicated freight rail route, as we are demanding on the part of the state and in agreement with the tourism industry and the citizens' initiatives. Therefore, this demand to the federal government for the protection of over 200,000 people in the Carinthian central region remains."

In the past, mainly loud, cast iron brakes were used on freight cars. However, these have the disadvantage of roughing the wheels during the braking process. The newly developed whisper brakes with composite brake linings do not do this and therefore help reduce the rolling noise of the freight cars.

Through the noise protection fund decided by the province of Carinthia in January 2021, further protective measures can be implemented on the railroad, or new improvements for the population can be developed and then implemented using acoustic investigations.

Already implemented measures for noise immission reduction on the Wörthersee line:

  • Construction of 32 km of noise barriers since 1996
  • Window subsidies for 1,128 soundproof windows (23% of the possible subsidies have been collected)
  • Targeted rail grinding and increased investment in existing rail infrastructure (track systems) to reduce noise emissions
  • Modernization of train equipment is associated with a reduction in noise emissions for residents.
  • From the end of 2024, only quiet freight cars will be allowed to run on the line.

ÖBB / Chris Zenz

Background facts:

  • From 2008 to 2019, rail freight traffic on the Wörthersee line increased by 1.3% (number of freight trains). At night (22:00 to 06:00), there was a decrease of -6.5%. Since 2020, there has been a further decrease due to Covid
  • Measurement report 2021 (Velden): Rating level (night, all trains) decreased from 48 to 46 dB, and pass-by level freight trains decreased from 88 to 87 dB (comparison 2021 to 2020)
  • No applicable limit values are exceeded but are increasingly clearly undercut due to the measures taken

Explanation of terms:

  • Sound emissions refer to the sound emission by a source (i.e., a train on the track or a truck on the road)
  • Sound immissions are the sounds that arrive at a certain point, e.g. at the human ear. Sound immissions are usually calculated (e.g. for noise maps) based on national and/or international regulations and standards, which, in turn, have been developed by experts over decades as a scientifically sound basis
  • The pass-by level is the energy-averaged sound pressure level during a train pass-by in the vicinity of the track (railroad noise measuring station in Velden 7.5m from the track axis)
  • The rating level is considered a measure of annoyance and refers to the number, duration and level of all pass-by noises over a defined period (e.g. annual average, subdivided into day and night levels, the night being from 22:00 - 6:00)
  • Assessment levels or noise indices are internationally recognized comparative variables. For noise mapping, it is usually an annual average, which is the best way to describe long-term effects. It is in contrast to short-term sound peaks, which can occur at any time and anywhere (howling engine, screaming child, emergency braking, etc.).


Source: ÖBB Press Releases