Tuesday 17 November 2009

5th Railway Freight Noise workshop: reporting on progress

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The fifth annual workshop on railway freight noise reduction was held on Tuesday, November 10 at UIC headquarters in Paris, attended by more than 70 participants. Aside from giving an overview of UIC’s noise activities, the main focus of the workshop was reporting on progress in the development of composite brake blocks and the different incentives planned.

Composite brake blocks reduce rolling noise by 8 – 10 dBA and are the most cost-effective method of noise abatement. There are two types of composite brake blocks: K- blocks and LL-blocks. The K-blocks have been homologated, however they require adapting the braking system, which makes them more expensive than LL-blocks. The LL-blocks, which simulate the braking characteristics of cast-iron brake blocks, however are still in the process of development.

Progress was reported on a variety of issues: On the level of the European Union, the Commission presented a report on the possibilities of noise related track access charges as an incentive. Due to the complexity of gathering the necessary data, the CER suggested to keep the option of direct subsidies open. UIC also showed that the technology to gain the necessary data to track wagons may incur costs that are in similar ranges to the retrofitting itself. The discussion on these issues is ongoing.

The main problem of LL-block homologation lies in the question of wheel wear and the influence of LL-blocks on equivalent conicity. This issue is being studied in two projects: One of the projects is aimed at optimizing the block contours so that wheel equivalent conicity doesn’t increase too rapidly. The other project consists in reviewing the limit values. In addition a “Europe Train” is planned dedicated only to the in service testing of LL-brake blocks. This train has been agreed upon by the CEOs of the European Railways.

Another presentation included a report on the progress of the TSI noise revision process. The aim is to increase flexibility and thus to simplify the process of testing for TSI conformity.

Finally several case studies were presented. The noise abatement project in Switzerland which includes the retrofitting of all Swiss rolling stock with composite brake blocks is well on its way and already has a noticeable effect. In The Netherlands tests were undertaken showing promising usage of LL-blocks in practice. In Germany the Silent Rhine project is looking at different incentives and is planning the retrofitting of 5000 wagons with K- and LL-shoes. Notification by the EU has been received for this pilot project. Also the results of the Silence project were presented. These include additional measures such as methods to silence locomotives as well as track- and wheel absorbers.

The conclusion of the workshop was that progress was indeed being made. It is important not to loose sight of the aim of society for sustainable transport. Railways can support this effort. Therefore no incentive system for quiet railways should hinder the railways in comparison to other modes of transport.

For further information please contact Lisette Mortensen, Senior Advisor Environment: mortensen@uic.org

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