Railway Noise Mitigation Act
Under the German Act Prohibiting the Operation of Noisy Freight Wagons (Railway Noise Mitigation Act), it is prohibited to operate freight trains containing noisy freight wagons, or to allow such trains to be operated, on the German rail network as of 13 December 2020.
A freight train is considered ‘noisy’ within the meaning of the Act if at least one wagon in the train is equipped with cast-iron brakes. The Act also applies to passenger trains containing at least one noisy freight wagon.
Below you will find detailed information on transposition of the Act into national legislation.
1. Operation of noisy trains
The German Railway Noise Mitigation Act still permits operation of freight trains containing noisy freight wagons if
- An exception exists under Section 4 (1), or
- An exception exists under Section 4 (2) or
- Exemptions exist under Section 5 German Railway Noise Mitigation Act.
Exceptions under Section 4 (1) German Railway Noise Mitigation Act:
Noisy trains may continue to operate in ad hoc services if the train’s speed is reduced so that its noise emissions do not exceed that of a fictitious comparable train containing only low-noise wagons. The comparable low-noise train is a fictitious train with an identical configuration, but containing wagons equipped exclusively with composite brakes. In practice, for most trains, this means a reduction from the maximum speed to 20-30 km/h. The applicable reduced maximum speed for a noisy train according to the exemption under Section 4(1) German Railway Noise Mitigation Act is to be determined by the FOC itself using the table in Annex 4 of Guideline 402.0202 and to be indicated in the train path request.
An example for different speeds is provided below:
Vmax silent train*1
Vmax noisy train*2
80 – 100 km/h
All other freight wagon
80 – 90 km/h
100 – 110 km/h
Calculation in according with Annex 2 of the 16th Ordinance for the Implementation of the Federal Pollution Control Act (BImSchV) using SoundPlan software
*1) Maximum of a comparable fictious low-noise train.
*2) Reduced speed of a train containing wagons equipped with cast-iron brakes so that the noise levels do not exceed those of a comparable fictious low-noise train.
Exceptions under Section 4 (2) German Railway Noise Mitigation Act:
Noisy freight trains may operate without a speed limit if
1. nature and scope of railway operations;
2. noise mitigation measures;
3. noise-screening buildings;
4. topography; or
5. gap between railway infrastructure and uses requiring protection
allow this. To request a path in accordance with Section 4 (2) German Railway Noise Mitigation Act, an expert noise control assessment is required to demonstrate compliance with the emission limits.
Section 2 (11) of Guideline 402.0202 provides regulations pertaining to this.
Exemptions under Section 5 German Railway Noise Mitigation Act:
Trains containing noisy freight wagons may run at undiminished speed if notices of exemption are presented for all noisy freight wagons in the train with the request. The freight operating company or wagon keeper can request exemption certificates from the Federal Railway Authority.
An exemption under Section 5 German Railway Noise Mitigation Act can be granted if
- it can be demonstrated that no approved technology exists for retrofitting the wagon,
- he wagon runs exclusively on a section of line with steep gradients before or after its main leg, or
- the wagon is operated solely for reasons of historical interest or tourism.
The exemption documents must be e-mailed directly to DB Netz AG as part of the train path request (e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org). To facilitate clear identification, see Section 2 (10) of Guideline 402.0202 for the relevant e-mail specifications.
2. Train path requests
When submitting a train path request, always specify whether the train is
- a low-noise train,
- a noisy train with an exemption or
- a noisy train.
This information is mandatory and must be input via a selection field in the train path portal.
Requests for the working timetable are possible only for low-noise trains and noisy trains with an exemption. Noisy freight trains with exceptions under Section 4 (1) or (2) German Railway Noise Mitigation Act can only be requested for ad hoc services. Requests for noisy freight trains under Section 4 (1) are possible only using the train path portal.
Regulations pertaining to requests can be found in Section 2 (2) of Guideline 402.0202.
3. Verification of compliance with the Act
The German Railway Noise Mitigation Act imposes extensive inspection obligations on DB Netz AG, which are designed to ensure compliance with the Act and verification of this compliance.
From 13 December 2020, verification of compliance with the Act will be carried out ex post by means of a random sample of 5% of all freight train journeys. Train compositions/consist lists will be requested for the trains in the sample. These lists will be used to review the brake equipment of each wagon, thus ensuring compliance with the legal requirements for a low-noise wagon. The lists will be transmitted over a direct interface based on a REST web service. Alternatively, the lists can also be transmitted as Excel documents in accordance with the format template provided by DB Netz AG. Both the technical description of the interface (3 documents in total) and the format template of the Excel document can be found under ‘Downloads’ on the right-hand side.
DB Netz AG has an obligation to document and update violations for each FOC. In case of repeated violations, the FOC concerned will be asked to undergo an external audit. In addition to serving the function of an additional escalation stage, the audit aims to establish sustainable processes by which to avoid further violations. If the audit is not completed in time or if further violations are found after the audit, the Federal Railway Authority may impose further sanctions. Possible sanctions against affected FOCs may include speed restrictions and vehicle bans.
4. Violations and penalties
The Federal Railway Authority may impose fines of up to EUR 50,000 per violation of the German Railway Noise Mitigation Act.
If a FOC repeatedly violates the Act, the authorities may impose further sanctions, such as speed restrictions or vehicle bans.