Alongside the numerous environmental benefits that railways have to offer, they are also associated with some negative phenomena, one of which is noise.
Thanks to a comprehensive noise abatement programme, SBB has for the last 15 years led Europe in protecting its population from rail-induced noise. It is working hard to further reduce the noise generated by its rail and shunting operations, stationary trains and construction work.
Fleet refurbishment to reduce noise.
Whenever possible, SBB tackles noise directly at its source. With government support, for example, all its passenger carriages and around 6,300 goods wagons have undergone noise-mitigating measures: they have been fitted with type K brake blocks made of composite materials. SBB Cargo has also purchased 2,000 new low-noise freight wagons, so almost half of its entire fleet can now trundle more quietly along the track. However, around 50 percent of the wagons running on trunk routes are foreign-owned freight wagons with old, noisy braking systems. In conjunction with the International Railway Union (UIC), SBB is therefore campaigning for the refurbishment of foreign-owned freight wagons. The intention is to banish noisy freight wagons from the Swiss rail network as of 2020.
Soundproofing along railway lines.
To provide additional protection for residents, SBB erects noise barriers in densely populated areas. There are currently around 300 kilometres of such barriers. If noise thresholds are exceeded despite the above measures, sound-insulating windows are installed. The cantons ensure this is done on a consistent basis.
In conjunction with the Swiss Federation and technical experts, SBB is drawing up a supplementary package of noise protection measures. These cover track improvements, shunting operations, stationary trains and construction noise.
Quiet freight wagon fleet.
Refurbishing freight wagons to mitigate noise has made a considerable contribution to quieter rail operations. And the prospects of reducing the noise generated by international rolling stock in the near future are also looking good.