Modernising the rolling stock

A railway employee checks the braking system on the wheel of a railway wagon.
Braking systems on rolling stock are being modernised in order to meet noise abatement requirements.

Modernising the braking systems on rolling stock is the most efficient way to reduce railway noise. New brakes no longer roughen up the wheel treads when braking, and produce less noise during travel. Under the first noise abatement programme in 2000, the Confederation therefore subsidised remediation of the rolling stock – through both direct contributions and the incentive of a noise bonus in the track access charge. All Swiss keepers’ wagons have now been converted. The last goods wagons left the workshops in summer 2016. A total of 11,000 goods and passenger wagons were modernised.

For international traffic, new vehicles have had to meet strict noise protection requirements since 2006. In the liberalised freight traffic market however, wagons may be used over many decades and trains are often composed of vehicles with very different origins. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of a purely national noise abatement programme. In the current ongoing noise abatement programme, therefore, Switzerland has set emission thresholds for all goods wagons running on the Swiss network. As a consequence, since 2020 older wagons with loud grey cast iron brakes may no longer be deployed on the Swiss network.

The ‘noise bonus’ in the track access charge  continues to provide a financial incentive for wagon keepers to convert to more modern, quieter wagons. Furthermore, Parliament has earmarked about CHF 30 million for investment in particularly low-noise goods wagons. The components of a particularly low-noise goods wagon, in particular the bogies, are optimised to reduce noise emissions. The emission thresholds for new wagons can thus be significantly undercut.