Noise and vibration

Railway transport is the most sustainable transport mode, as it consumes less energy, needs less space and produces less CO2 than any other transport mode. However, noise has long been the main environmental challenge for railway stakeholders. The public and their political representatives urge railway stakeholders to become quieter. But a lot has been achieved, and more activities are on the way.

UIC Noise and Vibration Sector

The UIC Noise and Vibration Sector promotes effective management of railway noise and vibration in the context of sustainable development. The group forms a center of excellence; it supports transfer of knowledge, coordinates events/activities, leads research projects and facilitates communication with key stakeholders. It works in close cooperation with other railway organisations, the EU commission and national authorities.
The sector provides a technical lead on transport noise and vibration policy, in particular:

  • The rail sector response to growing pressure from the EU, national governments, lineside inhabitants, health organisations and NGOs.
  • Evaluation, review and guidance on upcoming new noise and vibration legislative initiatives and mitigation policy ideas and incentives (e.g. noise differentiated track access charges, prohibition of cast iron brake blocks, rail dampers etc.). In addition, it will consider the effects of noise mitigation methods on vibration and vice versa.

The Noise and Vibration Sector meeting is held twice in a year.

For further information about the UIC Noise and Vibration Sector:

Noise working group

Chaired by Jakob OERTLI, SBB

Noise is a critical environmental aspect of the railways. Noise issues must be addressed if rail traffic is to be promoted. In this sense the noise working group aims to share knowledge on noise mitigation practices and supports the development of new noise reduction methodologies. The group also promotes the discussion of the relevant noise issues between the various stakeholders such as the EU Commission, national governments, railways, and lineside residents. To this extent the group publishes regular state of the art reports and organises workshops.

Vibration Working group

Chaired by Alf EKBLAD, Trafikverket

Vibration issues are addressed in the sustainability platform as an environmental issue and its impact on human health. As a result of efforts to eliminate noise problems, there is a growing concern about ground-borne vibration, and its effect on people living near the railways. Therefore, the main objective of the working group is to increase the sharing of information about vibration measurement, prediction and assessment methodologies and to share best practices. Group members focus on active problem solving by organising meetings, workshops, surveys aiming to increase their knowledge and convey them on to other stakeholders by publishing a state-of-the-art report on vibration.

Noise and Vibration projects

For further information and deliverables about Noise and Vibration ongoing projects, please visit:

For further information and deliverables about some completed projects, please visit:

Noise and Vibration publications

UIC Railway Noise in Europe

UIC Noise flyer 2019

- PDF - 2.3 Mb

State of the Art Report - Railway Induced Vibration - 2017

The UIC Sustainable Unit working group on vibration has just published the Vibrations State-of-the-Art Report. In modern daily life, people are exposed to many types of vibration. The vibration is often accepted as obvious and no cause for concern, (...)

- PDF - 3.8 Mb

UIC Research Project: Managing Noise from Parked Trains - 2014

Noise from parked trains is an increasing problem. In response to this, UIC have commissioned Müller-BBM to complete a technical review of the issues. The increase in noise issues related to parked trains is largely a product of urbanization and (...)

- PDF - 777.7 kb

Railway Noise - Technical Measures Catalogue
July 2013

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There is a growing awareness of the impact of railway noise on public health, which has resulted in pressure from line-side inhabitants, governments and health organizations for increased noise mitigation. As a consequence, noise can be a limiting factor for many railway operations, introducing additional costs for mitigation, demands for limits on availability/capacity and resistance to expansion of the network.

Recent years have seen the development of new, and refinement of existing, strategies and technologies for noise management. Railway companies often face calls to implement these, and demonstrate that progress has been made with the use of new and innovative technology.

By collating best practice and case studies from "real life" tests and adding the theoretical knowledge in this Catalogue, UIC stimulates the implementation of publically available knowledge, demonstrate the progress that has been made and also manage stakeholder expectations.

This Noise Technical Measures Catalogue surveys recent developments for three topics in
separate chapters:

  • Curve Squeal
  • Noise from freight marshalling yards
  • Noise from switches

In addition, one final chapter is dedicated to measures against rolling noise: rail and wheel dampers, K and LL blocks, noise barriers and acoustic grinding.
Curve squeal Curve squeal is a highly annoying sound that is radiated by trains running through sharp curves. Much progress has been made during the past decades in understanding this phenomenon. Mitigation measures aim at avoiding squeal events or at least reducing their duration or strength. Flange lubrication and top-of-rail application of friction modifiers have demonstrated to be very effective (reduction1: 5-20 dB(A)), provided that the dosing devices receive constant and dedicated maintenance. Friction products can be applied from trackbased as well as vehicle-mounted devices and there are many manufacturers and suppliers of such devices.

Special bogie designs, aiming at improved steering performance in curved as well as straight track, also reduce squeal noise and are potential solutions for the future, provided that safety issues can be solved adequately.

Noise from freight marshalling yards
Marshalling yards are areas where freight trains are decoupled and coupled. Because of the large scale of the yard, mitigation by noise barriers is no option. Among the most important noise sources are screeching rail brakes (retarders), peak noise from coupling vehicles and starting diesel engines, and steady noise from locomotive engines and auxiliary systems. Recently, new solutions for noisy rail brakes have been developed, showing promising noise performances (5-15 dB(A)). For stationary noise of several locomotives, technical modifications have been developed. Stationary noise of diesel engines, for example to operate cooling vents, may be avoided by using a way-side electric power supply.

Noise from switches
Switches and crossings are among the most sensitive parts of the railway system, claiming a large part of the maintenance budget. Switches and crossings also produce noise: impact noises from joints (if present) and screeching noise similar to curve squeal. In a traditional switch, a wheel encounters several gaps, causing a train to produce a rattling sound. Jointless switches are state-of-the-art nowadays (2-4 dB(A)) on lines where trains run at operational speeds. Squeal noise and flange rubbing noise in switches may receive the same treatment as squeal noise in curves (5-20 dB(A)).

Rolling noise
Rolling noise is the most common type of railway noise and there are many technical
measures that reduce it. High levels of rolling noise arise from irregularities on the wheel
tread and rail head, called roughness. Roughness of the rails can be controlled by
maintenance grinding and can be further reduced by acoustic grinding. Acoustic grinding
requires that the rails are ground or polished as soon as a certain reference noise level is
exceeded (1-3 dB(A)). The potential of acoustic grinding will increase if all train wheels are smooth as well. A large improvement in this field is expected from the homologation of LL braking blocks, which make retrofitting of freight vehicles a cost-effective option (8-10 dB(A)).

By application of rail dampers (0-3 dB(A)) and wheel dampers (0-2 dB(A)) a further noise reduction can be achieved. Rail dampers are applied in several countries. The noise reduction depends largely on the characteristics of the track system without rail dampers.

Promising developments for urban areas are low-close barriers, typically placed at only 1.70 m from the track with a height of 0.70-0.85 m. In certain cases low-close barriers are acoustically equivalent to much higher conventional barriers, their advantage being that they do not block the view. However, in view of safety issues with barriers placed that close to the traffic, to date only few countries have decided about homologation.

The real cost of railway noise mitigation - A risk assessment - 2013

National noise legislation requires rail infrastructure managers throughout Europe to take noise mitigation measures. Practically, the choice is between vehicles related measures (for example brake shoe retrofitting), track related measures (for (...)

- PDF - 1.2 Mb

Real noise reduction of freight wagon retrofitting - Supporting communication on noise reduction - Synthesis report - 2013

Freight trains are the main contributors to noise from mixed railway lines. The railway sector, represented by UIC, proposes the retrofitting of the existing European freight fleet, by replacing cast iron brake blocks with composite (organic or (...)

- PDF - 1.5 Mb


The application FreightSimSilent allows all cost-relevant parameters for retrofitting to K or LL brake blocks to be easily manipulated and displayed in diagrams spanning 20 years. This helps users make sound decisions and optimise different (...)

- Zip - 38.9 Mb

Rail Dampers, Acoustic Rail Grinding, Low Height Noise Barriers - 2012

There are many noise mitigation options open to railways. Some of them - such as noise barriers - have a known effect and are used widely, others such rail dampers, acoustic rail grinding or low height noise barriers are still controversial for (...)

- PDF - 1.5 Mb

On the END Consultation - Noise limits and trigger values - 2012

The European Directive on the Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise has been in force since 2002. It requests Member States to produce strategic noise maps of the major transport infrastructure and of agglomerations. The maps shall be made (...)

- PDF - 158.7 kb

UIC Project, Exploring bearable noise limits and emission ceilings for the railways: Part 1 - National and European legislation and analysis of different noise limit systems - 2011

The question ‘What are bearable limits for environmental railway noise?’ is discussed regularly in different forums at both National and European levels. To inform this debate, UIC has commissioned dB Vision to perform a systematic evaluation of all (...)

- PDF - 4.1 Mb

UIC Project, Exploring bearable noise limits and emission ceilings for the railways: Part 2 - Cost and benefit study for different noise limits - 2011

The question ‘What are bearable limits for environmental railway noise?’ is discussed regularly in different forums at both National and European levels. To inform this debate, UIC has commissioned dB Vision to perform a systematic evaluation of all (...)

- PDF - 7.8 Mb

The railway noise bonus - Discussion paper on the noise annoyance correction factor - 2010

- PDF - 800.9 kb


Noise differentiated track access charges, 2008
For further information about UIC’s publications on the implementation of noise related track access charges (NDTAC), please consult:

Environmental Noise Directive Development of Action Plans for Railways - 2008

Following the European Environmental Noise Directive (END directive n°2002/49/EC), noise mapping have to be done for large agglomerations and important infrastructures, every five years. The year after, the noise maps have to be followed by action (...)

- PDF - 257.6 kb

Noise Reduction in Rail Freight - 2007

- PDF - 938.4 kb

Noise Reduction in European Railway Infrastructure - 2007

According to the UIC/CER report ‘Noise reduction in European infrastructure’ (2007), every year, between €150 and €200 million is spent in Europe on building noise barriers and installing insulated windows, more or less meeting with acceptance from (...)

- PDF - 1.7 Mb

Rail Freight Noise Abatement - 2006

- PDF - 335.9 kb


Curve squeal noise, 2005

Curve squeal is an intense tonal noise that may occur on curves or on switches. The high noise level causes annoyance for people living in the vicinity of a squealing railway track as well as for passengers waiting in stations with curves. The character of the noise is very intense with high frequencies (up to 10,000 Hz) and high amplitudes that can be up to 100 dB(A) in 10 m distance.

To answer to this problem, the UIC Combating Curve Squeal project was designed to find measures against the annoying high-pitched noise created during pass-bys of trains in certain curves. A first phase, completed in 2003, was aimed at analyzing existing knowledge and developing models while the second phase, described in the report below, intended to increase confidence in selected mitigation measures.
A selection of friction modifiers and water were tested on two different rigs and under field conditions in Switzerland, France and the UK.
In conclusion, no optimal solutions could be found that would work under all circumstances. For each curve the trade-off between performance, dosage and costs must therefore be evaluated separately.

UIC Combatting curve squeal Phase 2 - State-of-the-art report - 2005

- PDF - 429.5 kb


Status and Options for the Reduction of Noise Emission from the Existing European Rail Freight Wagon Fleet - 2004

This report investigates the status and options for retrofitting of the existing European rail freight fleet based on a study commissioned by the European Commission and jointly funded together with the railways (UIC and CER), the wagon owners (UIP (...)

- PDF - 842.5 kb


Noise Creation Limits for Railways - 2002

Railway Noise Research - Summary of Activities since 1990 - 1998

This report describes the noise research carried out by ERRI and a number of European railways until 1998. It evaluates the options available to aim for a target of a 20 dB(A) noise reduction for freight vehicles compared with current levels in 1998. (...)

- PDF - 199.9 kb


UIC focus noise

UIC Focus Noise - November 2014

- PDF - 2.7 Mb

UIC Focus Noise - April 2014

- PDF - 355.2 kb

UIC Focus Noise - June 2013

- PDF - 1.5 Mb

UIC Focus Noise - July 2012

- PDF - 1.3 Mb

UIC Focus Noise - June 2010

- PDF - 397.4 kb

UIC Focus Noise - October 2009

- PDF - 235.8 kb

UIC Focus Noise - February 2009

Unfortunately, two errors slipped in focus no. 3 : Page 1, in the interview of Mr Kunst, the statement “The Dutch system for the reduction of track access charges for silent freight wagons is currently being implemented in Austria." is not correct (...)

- PDF - 487.6 kb

UIC Focus Noise - March 2008

- PDF - 2 Mb

UIC Focus Noise - August 2007

- PDF - 1.6 Mb



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Friday 5 June 2015