The AAE Group – the leading rental company for standard freight railcars in Europe – is refitting 70 special container flat wagons with low noise brakes for its Swiss customer Railcare. The replacement of the classic cast iron brake blocks with LL-brake blocks reduces the noise emission by 10 decibels. This reduces the noise of passing wagons by about half. “We will not only be more environmentally friendly, but quieter as well”, Hanspeter Schweizer, Head of Fleet Management at Coop subsidiary Railcare is happy to say. The first wagons have already been retrofitted. During the summer, all other wagons will be equipped with LL-blocks.
The AAE Group is a pioneer when it comes to low noise wagons in Europe and has already fitted almost 3,000 wagons with the so-called whispering brakes. This includes the classic block brakes with low noise K- and LL-blocks as well as innovative disc brakes, which the company prefers for new purchases.
“The future belongs to low noise wagons because they increase the general public’s acceptance of freight traffic”, says AAE CEO Mark Stevenson. “But those who change to low noise brakes at an early stage will be disadvantaged across Europe outside of Switzerland.” The reason is that maintenance costs for a refitted freight wagon can be up to Euro 2,500 per year higher than equivalent wagons with cast iron brakes. In addition to the higher operating costs one has to take into account are the actual refitting costs as well as higher downtimes due to shorter maintenance intervals.
“Up to now only Germany and the Netherlands have been subsidising the retrofitting. But this subsidy does not begin to cover the additional overall costs”, says Mark Stevenson. “For this reason the following applies outside of Switzerland: The faster you refit, the greater the financial disadvantage compared to those running loud wagons.” For this reason, the concept of subsidies needs to be rethought, perhaps with Switzerland serving as a model. “And we need a European solution because rail freight does not stop at national borders.”