Germany calls for EU rules on railway noise

Environment agency report claims big improvements possible at limited cost

Germany has called for EU-wide limits on railway noise to be introduced, adding to pressure for the move after Denmark made a similar demand two years ago (ENDS Daily 7 September 1998). There are currently no EU rules on railway noise and only Italy and Austria have national legislation, though a proposal for new German rules is expected this autumn.

The call for EU rules is backed by a German environment agency report, which concludes that railway noise can be cut by up to 90% by shifting attention from noise barriers - which are deemed ineffective - to rolling stock and rails. It recommends replacing iron brake blocks with composites, damping wheels and grinding rails in urban areas to make them smoother. It calculates that full implementation in Germany would cost only euros 3m (DM6m) annually.

The European Commission is due to propose a noise framework directive this spring, designed to put an existing patchwork of controls on a more coherent footing (ENDS Daily 27 September 1999). It has no plans to propose specific rules on railway noise, an expert told ENDS Daily, though a working group is studying the problem.

The EU rail industry has reacted cautiously to the German proposal, raising concerns over costs and safety. "Rail is the most expensive sector in which to reduce noise," Community of European Railways chief Anna Ottavianelli told ENDS Daily. She added that composite brake blocks would not be as safe as iron.

Follow Up:
German environment agency, tel: +49 30 89031, and press release. Community of European Railways, tel: +32 2 525 9070.

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