AAE is retrofitting 70 container flat wagons with low noise brakes for the Railcare subsidiary of food retainer Coop (Photo: AAE/JM Laffitau).

EUROPE: State subsidies for the installation of low-noise wagon brakes need to be rethought to increase uptake, according to Mark Stevenson, Chief Executive of wagon leasing company AAE.

Replacing cast iron brake blocks with low-noise LL blocks cuts noise by around a half, according to Stevenson, and quieter trains ‘increase the general public’s acceptance of freight traffic’. But the low-noise blocks increase maintenance costs by up to €2 500/year, with shorter maintenance intervals and thus increased downtime. There is no general European deadline for installation, and so early adopters of low-noise brakes are at a cost disadvantage when competing against operators using traditional brakes.

‘Up to now only Germany and the Netherlands have been subsidising retrofitting’, said Stevenson. This supports installation, but ‘does not begin to cover’ the additional operating costs of wagons with low-noise brakes. As a result, ‘the faster you refit, the greater the financial disadvantage compared to those running loud wagons.’

Stevenson argues that subsidy should be provided on the model used in Switzerland, where the state offers funding per wagon-km and per axle to make the use of low-noise brakes cost-neutral, and there is a nominal target date of ‘2020+’ for installation. AAE has now fitted almost 3 000 wagons with low noise K- and LL-blocks as well as disc brakes, which it prefers for new purchases.

‘We need a European solution because rail freight does not stop at national borders’, says Stevenson.

  • AAE is currently retrofitting 70 container flat wagons with low noise brakes for the Railcare freight subsidiary of Swiss food retainer Coop.