Tuesday 4 April 2023

Biennial UIC Railway Noise Days deepened the “being a good neighbour” approach from several angles

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Taking place on 28 February and 1 March, the UIC Railway Noise Days 2023 once again convened experts from different backgrounds to tackle the problem of railway noise. The biennial gathering in Paris, with an alternative framework that supported interactive participation by changing the traditional workshop culture, hosted around 100 participants, of which 80 attended in person.

To inspire solutions to mitigate railway noise and leverage the collective knowledge of the diverse participants, the concept of “What if I were in your shoes” was conceived as an open discussion platform whereby participants placed themselves in a different stakeholder position to contribute to effective noise mitigation, as well as to the European Zero Pollution Action Plan – a so-called hackathon discussion.

On UIC Railway Noise Day #1, insights from the hackathon discussions were blended with presentations from key speakers to support the active briefing. Speakers representing policy, lineside residents, suppliers, infrastructure managers, operators and researchers shared with participants the latest activities they are currently engaged in.

  • Policy: The session focused on the latest developments at European level for the management of railway noise. Marco PAVIOTTI from the European Commission DG Environment explained how the Commission builds the railway noise policy. The session was concluded with a presentation from the Community of European Railways by Ethem PEKIN concerning a noise-free future on the way to the modal shift to rail. The main takeaway from the hackathon session, moderated by Pinar YILMAZER from UIC, was that being a good neighbour requires action at all levels to reduce the number of people chronically disturbed by transport noise and that the cost-effective solutions currently available on the railways need to be urgently implemented in a holistic approach.
  • Supplier: Joan SAPENA from ALSTOM explained the challenges faced by suppliers when delivering rolling stock regarding noise performances, local specifications, policy compliance and noise sources considered to be related to external factors. Haike BRICK from the German Centre for Rail Traffic Research emphasised how suppliers may best support the learning curve through collaborative activities. The session also underlined the value of EU-funded projects in bringing together different actors to generate solutions and deliver optimum value.
  • Lineside resident: The presentation from the Centre of Information and Documentation on Noise, represented by Laurent DROIN, drew attention to how complaints are collected and managed in order to solve environmental noise pollution in France. Alf EKBLAD from Trafikverket summarised the group’s opinion on how residents’ expectations should be managed and what lineside residents expect in terms of actions to gain trust. Strengthening communication between local authorities and organisations is important to determine how neighbours perceive and frame complaints to overcome the issue.
  • Research: Thomas MALY from the Technical University of Vienna presented the current ongoing activities in Austria on noise prediction models regarding rail roughness, curve squeal, transparent noise barriers and wheel defect noise. In this respect, harmonised noise prediction models, supported by reliable and valid data, are needed for cost-effective noise mitigation on railways. Lorenzo FRANZONI from UIC recapped the group discussions, highlighting the main challenges faced by research institutes in accessing funds and the need to manage long-term projects adapting global innovations in line with specific national and regional strategies.
  • Operators: Martijn WOLF from NS provided an overview of the main noise-related issues for operators: pass-by noise, parked train noise and auxiliary noise. In this regard, the implementation of procurement specifications that comply with technical requirements and are written by acoustic experts play a fundamental role for operators. The hackathon discussion, moderated by Jamie WILKES from Network Rail, shed light on the business case facing operators for noise mitigation. There was a strong focus on the need for fair and equitable consideration by policy makers in communication and gathering knowledge to foster effective railway operation, in collaboration with infrastructure managers and suppliers. The key appears to be to identify a path between innovation and its implementation, strengthen cooperation between different stakeholders, and coordinate the necessary subsidies so that innovations can be encouraged to target less operation-related noise.
  • Infrastructure managers: Urs SCHOENHOLZER from SBB informed the audience that infrastructure managers have achieved substantial noise reduction in the past. However, future progress requires an intensive collaboration of all stakeholders in the entire field, including research institutions, suppliers, operators and policy makers. Michael DITTRICH from TNO lead the hackathon discussion, where possible solutions and obstacles in an environment of growing railway demand were identified. To mitigate railway noise, rail infrastructure managers need cost-effective solutions while striving to overcome challenges ranging from inconsistent local regulations, lack of concern and interest in test tracks to support research-driven developments, technical risks that are not widely addressed, and system bottlenecks.

In his closing remarks, the moderator of the event Jakob OERTLI, Chair of the UIC Noise Vibration Sector from SBB, pointed out the value of dialogue with various stakeholders in combatting railway noise and the importance of open-discussion platforms that encourage collaboration rather than a single point of view and focusing on existing solutions to achieve being good neighbours, and ended by congratulating the participants for their contribution to the railway sector.

During UIC Noise Day #2, the UIC Rail System Department organised a panel discussion moderated by Christian CHAVANEL, Rail System Director at UIC, together with the chairs of the UIC sectors, in order to underline the specific role of collaborative efforts to address noise on railways and to promote collaboration towards achieving noise mitigation on railways. The participants were then provided with an overview of current UIC activities; the results of which are of interest to acoustic and track engineers as well as other stakeholders. In this regard, the UIC LOWNOISEPAD project and UIC’s working group on acoustic rail roughness were shared with particular emphasis. Further presentations by Eduard VERHELST from SD&M and Emilie FREUD from SBB can be viewed on the YouTube channel.

For further information, please contact noisevibration@uic.org

or Pinar Yilmazer at yilmazer@uic.org

and Lorenzo Franzoni at franzoni@uic.org

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