Computer model calculates railway noise levels

Working together with an international project team, researchers at the Swiss research institution Empa have developed a computer model that can be used to calculate noise levels along the entire Swiss rail network.

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) tasked the team of Empa scientists, headed by Kurt Eggenschwiler of Empa’s Acoustics and Noise Control Laboratory, with the development of the computer model.

Dubbed sonRAIL, it describes how much sound is radiated from trains travelling down the rail lines and how it is attenuated. The results could be used to show where residents are particularly exposed to noise and what abatement measures would be most effective in protecting them from it.

The first practical test of the model were performed earlier this year when the Empa acoustic specialists effectively modelled noise levels along a section of the north-south rail corridor through Switzerland, an area of some 340km2.

The researchers are now championing the case for the noise simulation model to become the standard to be used in Switzerland and that it be considered in the rest of Europe too. In addition, they are planning to use the simulation for applications involving other kinds of noise, such as road traffic noise.