Implementation of the legal requirements of the German Railway Noise Mitigation Act

Implementation of the legal requirements of the German Railway Noise Mitigation Act effective 13 December 2020

Effective 13 December 2020, the German Railway Noise Mitigation Act (SchlärmschG) will be implemented. Under this legislation, it will no longer be permitted to run or let other parties run noisy freight trains on the German rail network.

The following text is an English translation provided by DB Netz. The official statement, in German, is provided here DB Netz Kundeninformationen


 A freight train is considered ‘noisy’ within the meaning of the Act if at least one wagon in the train is equipped with cast-iron brake blocks. Noisy trains may continue to operate in ad hoc services if the train’s speed is reduced so that its noise emissions do not exceed that of a fictitious comparable train containing only low-noise wagons.

Trains containing noisy freight wagons may only run at undiminished speed if notices of exemption are presented for all noisy freight wagons in the train with the request. The freight operating company or wagon keeper can request exemption certificates from the Federal Railway Authority. An exemption under Section 5 German Railway Noise Mitigation Act can be granted if

  • it can be demonstrated that no approved technology exists for retrofitting the wagon,
  • the wagon runs exclusively on a section of line with steep gradients before or after its main leg, or
  • the wagon is operated solely for reasons of historical interest or tourism.

The exemption documents must be e-mailed directly to DB Netz AG as part of the train path request:

In addition, train paths can be applied at undiminished speed despite the use of noisy wagons if an expert noise control assessment (schallschutztechnisches Gutachten) demonstrates compliance with the emission limits on the route to be traveled even if noisy freight wagons are used.

The train path order must include information about whether the train in question is a low-noise train, a noisy train with an exemption, or a noisy train. This information is mandatory and must be input via a selection field in the train path portal.

We at DB Netz AG are obliged to check compliance with the legal requirements. From 13 December 2020, verification of compliance will be carried out ex-post using a random sample of 5% of all train journeys. Train compositions/consist lists will be requested for the trains in the sample. These lists will be used to review the brake equipment of each wagon. The lists will be transmitted over a direct interface based on a REST web service. Alternatively, the lists can be transmitted as Excel documents in accordance with the format template provided by DB Netz AG. The technical description of the interface (three documents in total) and the Excel document format can be found on DB Netz AG’s website under ‘Downloads’ on the Railway Noise Mitigation Act page. At DB Netz AG, we will contact all the freight operating companies included in the sample to ask them to provide us with their lists of wagons, first on 22 December 2020 for the period 13.12.2020 to 20.12.2020 and then again on 5 January 2021 for the period 21.12.2020 to 03.01.2021.

Please note that the above regulations result directly from the provisions in Sections 1 to 8 German Railway Noise Mitigation Act (SchlärmschG), which are to be applied without restrictions. The announcement made by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) in its letter dated 23 November 2020 that it will not impose sanctions for violations of the Railway Noise Mitigation Act in the 2020/2021 working timetable period relates exclusively to the official discretionary powers referred to in Sections 11 to 13 SchlärmschG: The Federal Railway Authority (EBA) will not impose the sanctions mentioned there until the 2021/2022 timetable change; the obligations arising from the SchlärmschG for the parties involved shall remain in full force.

If a freight operating company registers a train as quiet although it knows that it will contain noisy wagons within the meaning of the Railway Noise Mitigation Act, this will be considered a violation of the Act starting on 13 December 2020. Similarly, from this date, we at DB Netz AG will no longer be permitted to offer paths without reduced speed for trains that are registered as noisy.

You will find detailed information on the German Railway Noise Mitigation Act on DB Netz AG’s website.

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