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Quiet rail freight traffic is on its way

Noise isn’t just annoying, it’s bad for our health. It causes stress, robs us of sleep and can damage hearing. Passing freight trains can be particularly disruptive for residents living near train lines. This is why the Rail Cargo Group is tackling the issue - because reducing noise matters to us.

Quiet brakes

Freight trains generate noise. This has to do with the fact that freight wagons - in contrast to passenger carriages - are equipped with metallic cast iron brakes. During braking, the running surface of the wheels roughen. This leads to an unpleasant rolling noise being created by the wheel in contact with the rail. For new rail vehicles, uniform noise limits for the whole of Europe have been specified in an EU regulation and these cannot be exceeded. However, this doesn't apply to old freight wagons, which were put into service before the regulation came into force. But the Rail Cargo Group is doing its utmost to make rail freight traffic quieter and is fitting its “old” freight wagons with new, quieter brakes, which are made from rubber and copper composites. The wheel treads stay smoother and the rolling noise is significantly reduced. This means freight wagons then generate about half the noise of standard ones.

The conversion process began in March 2018. Just over a year later, there are already 2,528 wagons with low-noise brakes in operation. 2,086 further wagons will follow this year until there are a total of 7,279 wagons operating with reduced noise by the end of 2020.

Why is the conversion process taking so long?

Not all freight wagons can be converted at the same time. The process consists of four categories and conversion also depends on the type of freight wagon in question. Plus it isn’t only the brake blocks that are being replaced. Depending on the type of vehicle, additional technical or retrofitting measures are required. The conversion project is being carried out within the framework of planned maintenance work in ÖBB workshops. This means that seamless rail freight transport can be ensured during the conversion period.