State aid: Commission approves German scheme supporting noise reduction in rail freight transport

Brussels, 26-12-2012 — / — The European Commission has found a €152 million German scheme to support the reduction of noise generated by rail freight traffic to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure will reimburse up to 50% of the cost of equipping existing freight wagons used in Germany with less noisy composite brake blocks. This will allow reducing noise emissions to the standard foreseen for new wagons. The Commission found that the aid supports the coordination of transport in line with Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “I am pleased to approve aid which protects residents adjacent to existing rail tracks from noise generated by rail traffic. This should lead to a better acceptance of the development of rail freight transport.”

In July 2012 Germany notified plans to finance up to 50% of the additional cost of retrofitting freight wagons with composite brake blocks (instead of cast-iron brake blocks). The aid will be paid to owners who retrofit their freight wagons after 9 December 2012. The measure has a budget of €152 million for the period from December 2012 to December 2017.

The Commission’s investigation found that the aid contributes to an objective of common interest and is needed when other modes of transport do not bear the costs of noise pollution they cause for the society. Moreover, it is proportional – dependant on a wagon’s mileage in Germany that will ensure that the aid corresponds to the magnitude of noise reduction resulting from its use. The retrofitting operations carried out with grants from the scheme will allow achieving a noise emission standard for existing freight wagons similar to the one required for new wagons.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measure was in line with the EU guidelines on state aid for railway companies and consequently Article 93 of TFEU.


The existing German fleet of freight wagons is currently generally fitted with cast iron brake blocks, which generate significantly higher noise emissions than composite brake blocks. The surface wrinkling of the wheel running surface, as a result of the combination of the cast iron brake block acting on the steel wheel, constitutes the primary reason for the noise produced by train and railway. Retrofitting existing railway freight wagons with composite brake blocks is expected to produce a smoother wheel running surface, and consequently only around half of the running noise.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.34156 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13)

Maria Madrid Pina (+32 2 295 45 30)


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