Rail traffic noise

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The noise emissions caused by the operation of railways and trams are referred to as rail traffic noise (also known as rail noise for short ) . Major sources of noise are sounds of trains , How To Get, braking or Rangiergeräusche .

The economic noise costs of rail traffic in Germany were estimated at 0.83 billion euros per year in 2010.

Causes of noise

The noises emitted when the train is running can essentially be assigned to three mechanisms, each of which determines the overall level of the sound emission in a speed range :

  • Drive noises

In the speed range from a standstill to around 40 km / h, the noise emission is determined by the traction equipment . Drive noises arise from the operation of engines, gearboxes and other components of the drive train, including auxiliary units and attachments. Drive noises are transmitted into the vehicle interior and outside as airborne and structure-borne noise. Depending on the vehicle class and type of drive, they dominate at low speeds and high engine power, such as in city traffic or when starting off. Also brake noise attributable to the drive system.

In the speed range from around 40 km / h to around 280 km / h, the noise emission is determined by the rolling noise generated at the wheel-rail contact . There are also sporadic noises such as squeaking around corners .

In the speed range above about 280 km / h, the noise emission is dominated by aerodynamically stimulated noises.

  • effect

If these noises are perceived as annoying, they turn into noise, which, due to its volume and structure, has a harmful or stressful effect on people and the environment.


Rail traffic noise is perceived as being quieter than road traffic noise at the same average level . This was taken into account in the sound forecast for new construction and major changes to rail routes in accordance with the guideline for calculating noise emissions from rail routes in Germany by means of a rail bonus of 5 dB. As a result of the new version of Section 43 (2) of the Federal Immission Control Act , the rail bonus for newly initiated planning approval procedures for railways is no longer applicable from January 1, 2015.

Noise level, initial situation

  • 96 dB (A) for today's freight wagons (without whisper brakes, without rubber-buffered tires, without wheel sound absorbers) measured at 80 km / h and at a measuring distance of 7.5 m from the freight wagon


A reduction in rail traffic noise can be achieved by measures on vehicles and on the route . In 2016, around 180,000 freight wagons were affected in Germany, around a third of which belong to DB Cargo.


  • LL-blocks (Low Noise - Low Friction) can be used to make it easier to convert existing cars. Thanks to their smooth running surfaces, they reduce driving noise by around 10 dB. The costs are stated by Deutsche Bahn AG as 1700 € per car.
  • Composite brake blocks (so-called K-blocks or whisper brakes ) for new cars, instead of gray cast iron brake blocks (GG blocks), reduce the wheel noise by 10 dB, which corresponds to a halving of the perceived noise. The running surfaces of the wheel sets do not roughen when braking with K-blocks.
  • Use of disc-braked vehicles instead of block-braked vehicles: cast iron brake blocks, which are pressed onto the wheel rims when braking , cause roughened wheel surfaces and thus lead to an increase in wheel-rail noises. By switching to disc brakes, the subjectively perceived noise can be cut in half (by around 10 dB (A)).
  • Use of completely newly developed bogies such as B. the LEILA bogie, up to 25 dB (A)
  • aeroacoustically shaped car bodies (avoidance of cavities in the bogie area) and pantographs (pantographs)
  • Preferring largely closed wheel arches over open construction
  • Use of wheel noise absorbers that dampen the natural vibrations of the railway wheels


  • In the case of rail vehicles that systematically run completely or partially underground in tunnels, etc., the impact of rail traffic noise on the environment is naturally reduced or limited to its own passengers.
Noise protection walls along the high-speed line Nuremberg – Ingolstadt – Munich
  • The roughness of the rail running surface can be reduced by grinding the rails. This reduces the excitation of the wheel-rail noise. However, the rail grinding, which is usually carried out at night, also generates considerable noise.
  • Particularly monitored tracks are checked more frequently by trips with the sound test van and, if necessary, reworked with repeated grinding processes.
  • Ballast bed instead of a solid track: The ballast bed acts as an absorber due to its porous structure.
  • Soundproof walls along the tracks absorb sound and reduce its spread. The closer they are to the guideway and the higher they are, the more effective this measure is. Special low-noise barriers directly on the track insulate the background noise more directly and avoid major impairment of the unobstructed view and the adjustment of urban visual axes
  • Curve squealing can occur with track curve radii under 200 meters . A noise reduction potential can be used through various measures on the vehicle and route.

Noise remediation of the railways


Rail damper in Rathen station ( Dresden – Děčín line ); installed on a trial basis in spring 2011

As part of the program “Noise Abatement on Existing Federal Railways”, which was launched in Germany in 1999 as a voluntary service by the federal government, night train noise for residents is to be reduced to a maximum of 60 dB (A). Around 3400 kilometers of routes were classified accordingly.

In a two-stage process, Deutsche Bahn proposed the most heavily loaded local passages in the German rail network. Building on this, the Federal Ministry of Transport developed an urgency list. In August 2002, the second update was presented with around 900 local passages.

In the years 2003 and 2004, funds each 51.1 million euros were spent in Germany. By the beginning of 2004, around 58 km of soundproof walls had been built and 14,000 apartments had been fitted with soundproof windows as part of the program. In addition, around 11,500 fans were installed and more than 300 roofs were soundproofed.

According to information from Deutsche Bahn, around ten percent of this had been achieved by the beginning of 2007, including the construction of 136 kilometers of soundproof walls, 72,500 soundproof windows and 19,300 fans. The federal government initially financed the program with 51 million euros annually, in 2006 with 76 million and since 2007 with 100 million euros.

In addition, around 3100 freight wagons had been fitted with K-blocks by the beginning of 2007. Converting all wagons, including those to private railways, would cost around 600 million euros. According to its own information, Deutsche Bahn is striving to be able to promote the installation of such brake blocks through the noise abatement program.

Rail dampers are plastic plates, recently also available in color, which are mounted on the sides of the rails and are intended to absorb vibrations and airborne noise. They were installed on a trial basis on several main routes and are intended to supplement the other noise protection measures.

On July 27, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure announced that the trigger values ​​for noise abatement on existing federal railway lines would be reduced by 3 dB (A). The reduction for railway lines is to be determined within the framework of the 2021 budget. The trigger values ​​for noise remediation depend on the type of use of the area; in residential areas, instead of 57 dB (A), only 54 dB (A) will have to be exceeded at night so that noise abatement measures can be implemented. The federal government has invested over 1.4 billion euros in noise abatement on its railway lines since 1999; around 139 million euros are available in 2020.


In Switzerland, noise pollution from railways has been systematically recorded in recent years. Noise maps were created that show the locations at which rail traffic noise has reached or will reach a critical level. After that, around 300 km of noise protection walls are required to bring the noise pollution of the population below the legally prescribed level. Funds of CHF 1.85 billion are planned for this (submission of financing and construction of public transport from 1998). The renovation work began in 2000. The expenditure is broken down into CHF 820 million for improvements to rolling stock, CHF 900 million for noise barriers and CHF 120 million for soundproof windows. Federal law sets a deadline of the end of 2015 for the implementation of the renovation.

Rail noise mapping

Maps of the existing noise on railway lines

The spread and exposure of noise from rail traffic has been recorded and published throughout Germany using rail noise mapping. The basis is the EC Environmental Noise Directive of 2002, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the Federal Railway Authority for federal railway lines.

Legal requirements and guidelines

The European Commission in 1996 with the Green Paper Noise Policy, the burden of noise known as one of the biggest environmental problems in Europe. EU-wide, uniform regulations on noise emissions have been laid down in the EC Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49 / EC).

In essence, three measures are to be carried out:

  • Determination of exposure to environmental noise using noise maps
  • Informing the public about environmental noise and its effects
  • Preparation of action plans

Responsibility for noise mapping on federal railways was transferred to the Federal Railway Authority in 2005 through the amendment of the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG).

Method for noise mapping of the railways

In 2005, the EC Environmental Noise Directive was first implemented in German law with the law for the implementation of the EC Directive on the assessment and control of environmental noise of June 24, 2005 and its incorporation into the Federal Immission Control Act (§§ 47a ff. BimSchG).

In 2006 the methodological basis for the practical creation of the required noise maps was regulated. The German guideline for the calculation of noise immissions from railways (Schall 03) , edition 1990 did not correspond to the requirements of the EC environmental noise guideline. For this reason, the 2006 Noise Mapping Ordinance came into force as the 34th ordinance to the Federal Immission Control Act.

In 2007, further details were laid down in the preliminary calculation method for environmental noise on railways . In the same year, preliminary calculation methods (VBEB) were published to determine the number of people exposed to environmental noise.

The main differences between the preliminary calculation method used for the ambient noise on railways and the German guideline for calculating noise emissions from railways (Schall 03) , 1990 edition were:

  • The " rail bonus " does not apply. (Lower disruptive effect of rail traffic noise compared to road traffic of 5 dB (A) in national law). In the EU Environmental Noise Directive, the arithmetic mean levels are applied in the same way for all traffic systems (see also sound pressure level ).
  • Additional source of noise in high-speed traffic (4.5 m above the top of the rail at speeds over 200 km / h),
  • Consideration of the sound-shielding effect of obstacles and the reflection on reverberant walls (limitation to 1st reflection),
  • No acoustic differentiation between the roadway types ballast bed + wooden sleeper and ballast bed + concrete sleeper (same approach of a roadway correction value of 2 dB).

The national calculation and assessment regulations differentiate between two periods of noise: day (6:00 am to 10:00 pm) and night (10:00 pm to 6:00 am) (see 16. BImSchV). The EU Environmental Noise Directive separates a third period in the transition between day and night: "Evening" from 6 pm to 10 pm. A noise index (L Day , L Evening and L Night ) in the form of averaging levels (A-weighted equivalent continuous sound levels ) is calculated for each of the three time periods (see also sound pressure level ). In addition, a total value is determined as a 24-hour value L DEN , which takes into account the higher sensitivity in the "evening" and "night" periods due to surcharges. Immissions in the evening period are weighted approximately 3 times, in the night period 10 times weighted in the total value L DEN . The results are published as noise maps for the German metropolitan areas and for the railways with more than 60,000 train movements per year.

The State Institute for the Environment, Measurements and Nature Conservation Baden-Württemberg put the first state-owned measuring station into operation on April 12, 2016 near Achern-Önsbach on behalf of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure .

Noise Action Planning

Protest in Kaub against freight traffic in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley

A noise action plan is an action plan that aims to reduce harmful environmental noise. The legal basis for creating a noise action plan is the European Environmental Noise Directive and in Germany the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG). Since January 1, 2015, the Federal Railway Authority (EBA) has been responsible for drawing up the noise action plan on the main federal railway lines . The EBA has taken on the task of drawing up a noise action plan for around 13,400 kilometers of routes and around 3,100 municipalities.

Deutsche Bahn wants to halve the noise by 2020 by using quieter freight train brakes. The federal government wants to pass a law according to which loud cars are no longer permitted. A draft law by the Minister of Transport for this was passed in the cabinet in December 2016.

In addition, tunnels for freight trains, especially in and next to the Rhine Valley, are being discussed.

Situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the Federal Act of March 24, 2000 on Rail Noise Abatement (BGLE) applies. As a special act, this supplements the Environmental Protection Act of 7 October 1983. The aim of noise abatement is to protect at least two thirds of the population across the network who are exposed to harmful or annoying railway noise by the end of 2015 (cf. Art. 2 Para. 3 BGLE).

For this purpose, the rolling stock registered in Switzerland is given top priority to be noise-reduced by replacing gray cast iron brake blocks (GG blocks) with composite brake blocks (K blocks). This measure ensures smooth wheel treads (no flat spots ), so that there is less traffic noise.

The noise abatement of around 1,200 standard-gauge passenger coaches and over 6,200 freight wagons from SBB Cargo and SBB Infrastructure has been completed. The renovation of the 3,300 private freight wagons registered in Switzerland will take until 2015 (because of the variety of designs and because it will be carried out during regular periodic overhauls).

By the end of 2015, around 280 km of noise barriers against railway noise should have been built in Switzerland.

See also


  • VCD Proceedings Combating Rail Noise. April 4, 2003.
  • K. Jäger: New findings in the assessment of rail noise. In: ETR. 52, issue 7/8, 2003, pp. 469-475.
  • Matthias Rombach: Rail traffic noise as a legal problem. Kovac, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8300-4679-0 .
  • Peter Thomas: Against the noise of the freight trains . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . October 9, 2012, ISSN  0174-4909 , p. T1 ( online version of the article [accessed October 12, 2012]).
  • Julian Nolte: Noise protection: Everything nice? ...and good?! in: Bahn-Report 5/2014 pp. 5–9
  • Sixteenth ordinance for the implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (Traffic Noise Protection Ordinance - 16. BImSchV) [1] with Schall03 in the 2nd appendix

Web links



Non-governmental organizations

Media articles

Individual evidence

  1. German Bundestag (ed.): Answer of the Federal Government to the minor question from the MPs Gustav Herzog, Sören Bartol, Uwe Beckmeyer, other MPs and the SPD parliamentary group - printed matter 17/2056 -: Measures to improve noise protection in land transport (PDF; 164 kB). Printed matter 17/2638 of July 26, 2010, p. 11.
  2. http://www.forschungsinformationssystem.de/servlet/is/35928/
  3. a b c Noise reduction at the source - whisper brakes make trains quieter , Deutsche Bahn AG, as of May 30, 2016
  4. a b On quiet feet - halving rail traffic noise by 2020 ( memento of December 13, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), DB Cargo AG, as of July 25, 2016
  5. The railway is getting quieter - technology for noise protection ( Memento of December 22, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), DB Cargo AG, as of March 12, 2015
  6. ^ Rudolf Breimeier: Halving the noise of freight trains possible . In: Eisenbahn-Revue International , issue 7/2002, ISSN  1421-2811 , pp. 343–345.
  7. International Railway Noise Congress 2010 in Boppard / Rhein , Klaus Gumpp, IGEL eV, 6 pages pdf
  8. Railway fans demand a clear view of cities and landscapes! Signal (magazine of the Deutsche Bahnkundenverband ) 4/2012
  9. a b c d e Noise remediation report in progress . In: Eisenbahn-Revue International , issue 5/2004, ISSN  1421-2811 , p. 194 f.
  10. a b On quiet feet . In: mobile. May 2007, p. 44 ff.
  11. Trigger values ​​for noise remediation are reduced. Press release No. 33/2020. In: Internet presence. Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, July 27, 2020, accessed on July 27, 2020 .
  12. a b Federal Railway Authority : Maps for noise mapping ( memento of October 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), Bonn, accessed on June 13, 2015
  13. EU Commission (Ed.): Green Book Noise Protection Policy , Brussels, 1996
  14. (2002/49 / EG) EC Environmental Noise Directive , Brussels, 2002
  15. Law for the implementation of the EC directive on the assessment and control of environmental noise Berlin, 2005
  16. ^ Ordinance on noise mapping , Berlin, 2006
  17. Preliminary calculation method for environmental noise on railways (PDF; 614 kB) Berlin 2007
  18. ^ Federal Railway Authority : Map Service , Bonn, accessed on April 16, 2015
  19. First state-owned measuring station for railway noise installed in Baden-Württemberg - measured values ​​online now. LUBW State Institute for the Environment, Measurements and Nature Conservation Baden-Württemberg, April 12, 2016, archived from the original on April 23, 2016 ; accessed on April 23, 2016 .
  20. ^ Federal Railway Office: Noise Action Planning ( Memento from April 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), Bonn, accessed on April 16, 2015
  21. Faster conversion of freight trains for better noise protection ( memento of December 13, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), Deutsche Bahn, February 22, 2016.
  22. ^ Freight traffic in the Rhine Valley , brand eins, 7/2014
  23. Germany: Ban on loud freight trains from 2020 orf.at, December 21, 2016, accessed December 21, 2016.
  24. Railway noise: the trains rattle day and night , faz.net, October 17, 2016
  25. full text
  26. Message on the amendment of the federal law on noise abatement of the railways ( Memento of November 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), PDF, page 7