Conferences for Freight Professionals

The Netherlands at the forefront in reducing noise pollution

The Netherlands is at the forefront in reducing noise pollution caused by rail freight traffic. This is because it is a densely populated country where many people drive close to the track. Currently, more than half of the freight equipment that runs in the Netherlands is silent. Cast-iron braked freight wagons will disappear completely in the next ten years.

These are the views of Jasper Peen, Senior Consultant at Ricardo Rail, a Dutch consultancy and engineering organisation in the field of rolling stock and infrastructure. In a workshop at the Freight & Terminal Forum, he will explain how we can we limit the environmental impact of rail freight transport.

The Netherlands

“For new railway lines in the Netherlands, strict noise requirements are applied. For existing lines, noise production ceilings have been established to limit noise nuisance. Many noise-reducing measures are being taken on the infrastructure, and the Netherlands was one of the first countries in Europe with Switzerland to introduce a noise-dependent bonus on the infrastructure charge to stimulate the deployment of quiet goods”, Peen summarises.

According to him, the necessity for such measures is somewhat different in the Netherlands than in other countries, due to factors such as population density. Many people live or move close to the railway tracks. In order to enjoy the goodwill of rail transport in general, the importance of establishing a silent transport mode is all the more important.

Cast-iron brakes

“It is clear to see that due to the various measures, more and more silent goods are being deployed in the Netherlands; now more than half of the freight wagons is silent. The biggest step, of course, is the phasing out of cast-iron brakes in freight wagons, making the movement of goods a lot quieter in one swoop than was the case in the past”, the consultant explains.

But more is possible, he notes. In addition to the noise level, one can also look at the level of vibration caused by a train. Vibrations are another source of nuisance experienced by people living in the vicinity of a railway track. Although noise pollution reduction is now firmly established on the agenda of industry players, the reduction of freight train vibration is a little more challenging. It is still difficult to determine vibration levels, and the techniques to reduce vibrations are relatively new to the market.


“As mentioned, more than half of the freight equipment that runs in the Netherlands is now silent. That means that these freight wagons are no longer equipped with cast-iron brake pads, but with composite brake pads. You do not see much use of other innovative techniques in the freight equipment”, said Peen.

This is partly due to the investment required, he argues. “The extent to which additional steps are being taken depends on the need for this and the extent to which the parties want to pay for it. In the end, many noise-reducing measures naturally cost money, and every party in the sector will be affected in one way or another.”

Positive results

However, the knife cuts both ways, he believes. “Innovative equipment technologies also offer cost benefits and operational benefits. Building new rail lines is becoming increasingly difficult and more and more money has to be spent on infrastructure measures. At a given moment it is much more effective to tackle the equipment itself.

“We can make much better use of the limited space available in the Netherlands. We can run more trains ánd build more homes. The question is of course how costs and benefits are distributed. Good rules must be agreed for this. This requires a sector-wide and European approach.”


Are you interested in this workshop or would you like to join the discussion? Registration is free of charge. You must first register for the Freight & Terminal Forum, Expo only. Then, you visit the workshop programme and select the workshop of your choice.

Date: 26 March 2019
Time: 12:15 – 13:00

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