Penalties for noisy wagons in Germany postponed with one year

Germany will not penalise noisy railway undertakings for another year. The ban on loud freight wagons on the German rail network will apply from 17 December. However, due to the corona period the transition to silent wagons has in many cases been delayed. Hence, sanctions on the use of these wagons will only be implemented a year later.

This was announced by the Federal Ministry of Transport. Workshop capacities are severely restricted due to the corona pandemic and the conversion of freight wagons has been delayed or completely interrupted since early summer. As a compensation measure, freight trains with loud wagons are still allowed if they drive so slowly that they are not louder than modern quieter wagons, the ministry informed the industy.

Legislation formed

The legislation concerning loud wagons stems from 2017, when the law prohibiting these wagons was passed. This prohibits the use of classic cast-iron brake pads. Hence, all railway undertakings passing Germany must do so using wagons fitted with composite brake blocks. Composite brake pads ensure that the steel wheel does not roughen when braking. Because the wheel remains smooth for longer, braking produces less noise

A large part of the industry has been in preparation for these new rules, retrofitting entire wagon fleets. For example, DB Cargo is currently converting 63,000 wagons by December. At the same time, many rail freight operators from Central and Eastern Europe have not been able to provide the quick modernisation of their wagon fleet, even without considering the pandemic. The conversion is a costly procedure.

Already there

According to the German ministry, 98.6 per cent of the 183,000 freight wagons on the German network now comply with the permitted noise levels. Incentives for noise abatement have been there since 2012 in the form of track access charges incentives. The reduction of noise is important to increase the public acceptance of rail freight, especially where these trains run through populated areas.

The Federal Railway Authority is to monitor the new regulations and starting from next year, fine those railway undertakings that do not comply. Exceptions apply to routes with a certain characteristic, or if freight wagons cannot be converted to quieter brake blocks for technical reasons.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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