A LAW passed in March that came into effect on October 1 allocates a total of SFr1·85bn to a programme of noise reduction that aims to see all Swiss Federal Railways’ passenger fleet meet acceptable standards by 2004, and freight wagons by 2009. If these measures alone do not bring a particular stretch of railway into compliance with projected national noise thresholds, other actions must be taken by 2015.

Large as it is, this package represents a more realistic investment in railway noise reduction than some of the standards being talked about after comprehensive environmental protection legislation came into force in April 1987. This established noise sensitivity levels for various types of building, and the owners of noisy plant were given 15 years (until 2002) to comply. In reality, it has taken much haggling to reach the point where SBB and the private railways now believe they have a chance of complying by 2015.

Clearly, the problems are greatest on routes where the volume of freight traffic is highest, especially at night. Here it will be necessary to install noise barriers in sensitive areas, but in some cases even this may not be practicable - for example, where houses or other buildings are above the level of the railway, or the walls would have to be so high as to be intrusive. In such cases, the authorities will be able to pay 50% or even 100% of the cost of double-glazing where lineside residents or the owners of buildings such as schools want this.

Because of the growing volume of freight being hauled over the two primary international transit routes through the Gotthard and L