SBB’s comprehensive noise reduction programme has made it a European pioneer in protecting local residents from railway noise for many years.
Alongside the numerous environmental benefits that railways have to offer, they are associated with some negative phenomena, one of which is noise. SBB is working hard to reduce noise from rail and shunting operations, stabled trains and construction works.
Reducing noise of the fleet.
Whenever possible, SBB tackles noise directly at its source. With the support of the Confederation, noise reduction work has been carried out on all passenger coaches and freight wagons, i.e. they have been equipped with K brake blocks made from composite materials. SBB Cargo has also procured 2,600 new low-noise freight wagons, meaning that almost the entire fleet is now quiet. Until now, on all important transit routes, around 20% of freight wagons have been foreign-owned and run with old, loud braking systems. In conjunction with the International Union of Railways (UIC), SBB has therefore campaigned for the refurbishment of foreign-owned freight wagons. Since 2020, a ban on noisy freight wagons has been in place on the Swiss rail network. This has meant that night-time noise emissions from freight trains have been further significantly reduced.
Noise barriers on railway lines.
As part of a redevelopment contract from the Confederation, SBB has installed noise barriers to protect residents from railway noise. Moreover, when required, noise barriers have been, and continue to be installed when expansion projects are carried out. The total length of these walls (including noise barriers) on the SBB network is now around 400 kilometres. Where noise limits are still exceeded, sound-absorbing windows have also been installed on the affected houses. Today, SBB is considered to have achieved reduced noise as per the Noise Abatement Ordinance, which is authoritative for SBB. This means that additional noise protection measures along the existing infrastructure need only be considered if, for example an additional track, more trains or other changes to the infrastructure result in a considerable increase in noise. SBB’s environmental specialists will assess this in each case during the building permission process, on the basis of the requirements of federal law. As part of the permit process, this assessment will be reviewed by bodies such as the environmental authorities of the Confederation and the cantons concerned.
No (co-)financing of noise protection measures by residents outside of specific SBB expansion projects is envisaged.