At the Noise Reduction Workshop, e-News had the opportunity to put a few questions to the former Chairman of the UIC Network Group, Matthias Mather, Manager for Environment Protection at Deutsche Bahn AG’s Environment Centre, and to the new Chairman, Jakob Oertli, noise control engineer at SBB where he is part of the infrastructure noise group.
How do you look back on your chairmanship of the UIC Noise Network Group?
In the beginning noise mitigation was primarily a technical task. But over the years it was understood that noise is the major environmental problem of the railways. So our focus changed from creating information and knowledge to assessing the risks and chances of various scenarios involving organisational and technical measures for noise mitigation, collecting best practice examples and communicating the results. I think our input has proved its value throughout the discussions on European noise policies and will do so further. Another important result was the acceptance of UIC noise targets within the UIC sustainability strategy. I am proud that our network has become the biggest within the EES platform.
What have been the challenges over the last year for the UIC Noise Expert Group?
The most important subject was to contribute to the discussions about noise dependent track access charges, and I have to thank Peter Hübner, my predecessor and now experienced UIC consultant, for his excellent job. From the point of the network we had to consider the current UIC situation. Current noise topics from publications and discussions, and the results of projects and studies in particular have to be shared with UIC members. The current opt-in process leads into a difficult situation, because the results of projects should only be shared among the project members. So we started to sharpen our strategy with the direct participation of our network members. Here Lisette Mortensen, Senior Environment Advisor, contributed with inspiring ideas, fruitful methods, and impressive results due to hard work.
Have you been able to use your UIC network experience in your own railway company (at Deutsche Bahn)?
Of course the exchange of knowledge was very important. We got a lot of international references for our decision processes within Deutsche Bahn.
Do you have any advice for your successor Jakob Oertli (SBB)?
Jakob has been in the business as long as I have. He will be very successful if he keeps to his ideas and skills. I wish him all the best for his work.
Interview Jakob Oertli
Short presentation: Jakob Oertli is a noise control engineer at SBB where he is part of the infrastructure noise group, which manages the Swiss railway noise abatement project and takes care of all noise issues and new mitigation methods. Jakob Oertli has been active in the international railway noise field for almost 20 years. This work has included strong participation in UIC’s noise efforts such as participation in the Task Force Noise and being the secretary of the current Network Noise and the Core Group Noise. Jakob Oertli has also led several noise projects with UIC’s financial involvement such as the Freight Corridor Cost Benefit Analysis or cost benefit part of the STAIRRS project. In addition he has organised the last seven UIC annual workshops on railway noise.
Why did you sign up as Chairman for the UIC Expert Network?
There are two reasons. One of them is in terms of noise reduction. I personally feel strongly that railways are a sustainable mode of transportation. I would like to do everything to support this means of transportation and doing that means that the environmental problem of noise must be reduced in Europe. The second reason is that noise is an international issue and that means that we have to cooperate in order to achieve the best solution. I very much like working in an international context and to interact with people from other countries, and wish to combine all these aspects to see if we can come up with a common solution.
How important is noise reduction in Switzerland?
Switzerland was one the first countries to recognise railway noise as a problem and for that reason our legislation – enacted in 1986 – was one of the first to be put into force in Europe. Since then we have developed a programme for noise abatement which is based on cost benefit criteria. We looked at many different possible solutions and chose that combination of measures which had the best cost benefit relationship. In 2000 we started the noise mitigation programme that will be completed by 2015. This specific programme consists of building noise barriers, retrofitting the Swiss rolling stock with K-blocks and installing noise insulated windows in the houses of residents living near tracks. Our remaining problem is that we still have a large number of foreign freight rolling stock going through Switzerland, on our main lines it’s up to 70%. Therefore, even if we make our rolling stock more silent it doesn’t solve the problem completely. This is one reason why we recognise that noise control is important on an international level.
What do you think will be the challenge for the UIC Noise Expert Network?
The most important challenge is to try to do everything to support the retrofitting of freight rolling stock. Another challenge will be to come up with pragmatic “doable” solutions for the incentives being discussed in this regard, for example there is a lot of political pressure for noise differentiated track access charges. We need to make sure that we come up with a pragmatic and inexpensive way to determine which trains are less noisy.
Another challenge is that there are several measures currently being discussed, where it is unclear under which circumstances they have an effect and how large it is. Measures such as rail dampers or rail grinding come to mind. Cooperation between the railways is beneficial in this respect, so that we can compare our results before we make large investments.
Do you have a message for Matthias Mather?
I would like to thank Matthias Mather so much for his fruitful and intensive work in the past years and hope he will continue to join our meetings and workshops.
On behalf of UIC and its members, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux would like to thank Matthias Mather for all his hard work and time invested in the Noise Network Group which he has chaired since 2003. Matthias Mather has been one of the longest-serving Chairmen of any UIC expert group. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux would like to wish Jakob Oertli of SBB – who has already participated largely in UIC’s noise reduction issues and who was secretary of the Noise Network Group over the same period as Matthias Mather – every success as Chairman.