Regulation of railway activities

The NSW EPA regulates freight and passenger train operators, being rolling stock operators, railway infrastructure operators and railway construction work operators, through environment protection licences.

The licences are a flexible regulatory tool that can be amended, with consultation, to include revised or new requirements. They provide a framework for progressively reducing the impacts from the NSW operational rail network over time.

For example, licence conditions for rolling stock operators require:

  • new train locomotives to comply with noise and air emission limits
  • monitoring and reporting on progress to reduce air and noise emissions
  • providing a way for community members to report noise and air impacts
  • pollution studies into wheel squeal, idling, braking, bunching and stretching and horn use
  • improvements in steering performance to reduce wheel squeal on priority class freight train wagons.

See the EPA’s public register of Environment Protection Licences.

See the locomotive class register for all locomotives approved to operate on a licensed network in NSW.

Regulatory priorities

Locomotive noise

Sydney Trains’ licence requires them to use a rail noise monitoring system to measure the noise levels of locomotives on the Sydney Trains Network. Noise data from the monitoring system is provided to the rolling stock operators who operate the locomotives.

Rolling stock operators are also required to test locomotive noise and  conduct locomotive maintenance as set out in their EPA licence and take steps to reduce the impacts of locomotive noise on the community.

Wheel squeal and freight wagon steering rectification

Wagon steering mechanisms can generate wheel squeal and increase track wear when they are operating poorly. To address this issue, we consulted with industry and identified a list of priority wagons that should be targeted.

We now require rolling stock operators to fix the steering on their priority freight wagons to meet minimum standards and improve their performance. Priority wagons which can’t meet these new requirements may be phased out of operation.

Rail noise at Waverton and Wollstonecraft

Find out how we have engaged with Sydney Trains and the local community, including the Waverton Wollstonecraft Rail Noise Action Group (WWRNAG), to address rail noise at Waverton and Wollstonecraft.

How to report an issue

To report an issue with noise or air emissions from the rail network, contact the rail operator or the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 or at

Information which will help investigations includes

  • date and time of the noise
  • the direction the train is travelling
  • the train operator name (eg Pacific National, Qube, Sydney Trains)
  • the train individual number
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