The German government and DB agree a new noise control target for 2030: quiet brake blocks for all DB freight cars
DB Cargo's fleet marks the end of 2020 by completing the switch to whisper brakes • Noise mitigation measures in place along 2,000 km of track • 800,000 people's homes to benefit from new noise control target for 2030
(Berlin, December 14, 2020) The German government and Deutsche Bahn have taken another major step towards cutting rail noise emissions by 2030. They presented their joint intentions in Berlin today: The 2030 anti-noise project aims to reduce railroad noise affecting half of the residents living close to the country's rail infrastructure. Some 800,000 people can look forward to greater peace and quiet when this work is complete. Achieving this target will be the goal of the next phase of the noise abatement program initiated by the German government in 1999. During this stage, the number of line kilometers with anti-noise measures will increase by an average of 125 km per year. By 2030, a further 1,250 km of Germany's railroads will have been added to the 2,000 km where this work has already been completed. Berlin has earmarked an annual budget of some EUR 140 million for the project.
Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure Andreas Scheuer says, "Improving anti-noise protection for people living near railroad lines is very important to us. We want these people to have a high quality of life and, above all, be able to get a good night's rest. For this reason, we are working to greatly reduce the noise created by rail vehicles. We have already put scores of effective measures into place – these include creating a train path pricing system based on noise emissions, fitting vehicles with whisper brakes and using innovative technology that diminishes noise. This work has already made a clear difference, and we are committed to maintaining the pace of change. Working with DB, we want to reduce the number of people impacted by noise by 50%. We want the rail system and everyone living near railroad lines to be good neighbors."
Replacing the cast iron on freight cars' brake blocks with a composite material plays a key role in cutting noise emissions. Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, Member of the Management Board for Freight Transport at Deutsche Bahn and CEO of DB Cargo, says "We are delighted to report that we have completed our fleet's overhaul on schedule: Starting yesterday, all of DB Cargo's 63,000 freight cars now have quiet brake blocks. We want to substantially increase the cargo volumes handled by eco-friendly rail services. This can only be done with the support of people living by railroad lines, and establishing a fleet that only contains quiet freight trains is a key factor in securing their acceptance."
Ronald Pofalla, Board Member for Infrastructure at DB, says, "We are working with the government to keep our word when it comes to reducing noise emissions. By the end of the year, we will have completed noise mitigation activities for over 2,000 km of lines throughout Germany. Noise barriers, soundproof windows, rail web dampers – we are using all kinds of measures to successfully reduce exposure to noise along especially busy routes. The next stage of our plan will see us tackle another 1,250 km. Planning and construction work will take place quickly, I can promise you that today."
Berlin and DB have invested over EUR 1.5 billion since the launch of the noise abatement program. Thanks to the 2,000 km of low-noise lines, we have made life easier for people living in some 1,300 towns and communities around Germany. As part of this, 64,000 homes throughout the country have been fitted with passive noise-control features. In 2020 alone, we erected over 60 km of new noise barriers and invested about EUR 145 million in this mission.
Over the past seven years, DB Cargo has spend some EUR 220 million on upgrading its fleet of freight cars. One reason for higher outlay is the actual refitting process itself. In addition, the freight cars' new composite brake blocks also require more maintenance work.
The EU has also provided financial support for the changeover to quiet brake blocks with money from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Total payments for DB Cargo amounted to EUR 14.3 million over the course of three projects that saw almost 54,000 cars fitted with the new brake system.
The surface of whisper brakes does not become as rough as cast iron brake blocks as they wear down over time. This goes a long way towards eliminating noise emissions at source, as smoother wheels on smooth rails make for quieter rail traffic.