Noise caused by night-time movement of freight trains has often been cited as a major objection to expansion of rail freight operations.

Now, after years of research, agreement has been reached which will permit the use of a new, much quieter type of brake block on international rail freight wagons. It will eventually replace the current cast iron brakes.

The new so called K-type composite brake blocks will in effect halve the amount of noise generated; reducing sound by 10dB.

"This agreement shows that the rail freight industry is ready to become even more environmentally friendly" said Gary Tinsey, chairman of Railfuture's
freight committee.

The introduction of these quieter freight wagons follows the purchase of some 400 new quiet diesel locomotives over the last seven years and the scrapping of many old unreliable 40-year-old locos.

Mr Tinsey added: "Rail freight operators can now become even better neighbours to residents who live along side rail routes used by night time freight trains. Just one fully loaded train every ninety minutes can take the equivalent of 70-80 heavy lorry loads. I know which I'd rather have going past my bedroom window at 2:00 am."

"Night time noise is an important issue. People deserve and need a decent night's sleep.

"Unfortunately night time is when many of railfreights' customers want to move their goods, as our road networks become increasingly congested," said Eric Layfield Railfuture's freight secretary.

"Railfuture welcomes the agreement reached by the technical Research Commission of the Union of International Railways, and urges the industry to adopt the new quieter technology as soon as possible."

At its meeting held on 14 and 15 October 2003, the technical and research commission of the International Union of Railways gave
approval to the use in international traffic of wagons equipped with K type composite brake blocks.

This decision was taken on the back of several years of in-depth technical work and marks a decisive step in efforts to reduce freight train noise levels.

English Welsh & Scottish; Freightliner; GB Railfreight and DRS have between them ordered a total of nearly 400 class 66 and class 67 diesel locomotives. These are much quieter, more fuel efficient and more reliable than their predecessors.

Railfuture's freight committee is part of the pro-rail campaign group Railfuture. It focuses its attention on Government; the Strategic Rail Authority and the rail freight industry, and campaigns for a level playing field with road freight.