The noise is highest in the vicinity of roads, railways and the arrival and departure flight paths at airports. More than 70% of Dutch homes are exposed to noise of more than 50 decibels. This is the noise level outdoors in an average residential neighbourhood during the day. Approximately 5% of the homes have a relatively high noise exposure of 65 decibels or more. Almost 1% of households are exposed to noise levels in excess of 70 decibels, comparable to the noise of a motorway 25 metres away.

Sleep disturbance

It is estimated that the sleep of almost 1.5 million people is seriously disturbed by road traffic in the Netherlands. People are troubled most at night by the noise of mopeds, followed by cars, lorries, motorbikes and neighbours.


The Noise Abatement Act records standards for road traffic noise which are intended to protect citizens against excessive noise. It does not include any separate standard for night-time road traffic noise. However, it does set a threshold value for noise exposure throughout the entire day, referred to as the Lden. This includes the noise exposure during the night.

Lden and Lnight

The noise exposure is expressed in Lden (Lday-evening-night) and represents the average noise exposure during an entire day. The calculation of the Lden attaches much more weight to the night-time noise exposure because noise at night causes a lot more nuisance than during the day. The night-time noise exposure is expressed in Lnight, the criterion for average noise exposure from 23.00 to 7.00.

To the maps

A variety of noise pollution maps are included in the Atlas. Take time to look around, for example at the Lden maps of motorways or the Lnight maps of motorways. You will also find a map showing the percentage of people suffering serious inconvenience due to noise from road traffic, per municipality.

Nuisance and sleep disturbance

Exposure to noise in our residential environment primarily causes inconvenience and sleep disturbance (difficulty getting to sleep, waking up during the night or waking up earlier than normal in the morning). A higher exposure to noise can increase the possibility of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases and exacerbate the problems faced by people who already suffer from cardiovascular conditions. If children are exposed to excessive noise at school, their performance may suffer. Sleep disturbance can also lead to a bad mood, tiredness and a reduced capacity to perform the following day.

In 2008, road traffic caused serious nuisance to 6% of Dutch people and sleep disturbance to 3% of them. Rail and road traffic led to sleep disturbance in the case of approximately 1% of Dutch people. Sleep disturbance can occur if the noise exposure at night exceeds 40 dB. If you would like to find out more about the health effects of noise, please visit the following website (public health and health care).

Road traffic noise statutory framework

In the Netherlands there are two laws which apply to managing road traffic noise, namely the Environmental Management Act and the Noise Abatement Act. Both laws apply to specific situations. The table below shows a statutory framework for road traffic noise.

  Road construction/alteration Construction along a road
Motorway (noise emission ceilings) Environmental Management Act Noise Abatement Act
Noise Abatement Act Noise Abatement Act Noise Abatement Act

(Main) roads which fall under the Environmental Management Act are indicated on the so-called noise ceiling map.

The Noise Abatement Act

The Noise Abatement Act is intended to protect citizens from excessive noise. This Act contains standards applicable to noise from road and rail traffic and industrial estates. Preferential values and maximum permissible threshold values apply for the noise exposure outside homes, hospitals and schools (the so-called noise-sensitive properties). A distinction is made between existing and new situations. Tighter threshold values apply to new situations.

The Noise Abatement Act is applicable in the following situations:

  • The construction of noise-sensitive properties (such as a home) close to a road.
  • The construction/alteration of a road which is not featured on the noise ceiling map.

The noise exposure is expressed in Lden and Lnight. Lden (Lday evening night) gives the average noise exposure during an entire day. The Lden calculation attaches more weight to the evening exposure than the daytime period and more weight is also attached to the night-time exposure than exposure during the evening period. This is because noise in the evening and night causes more nuisance than during the day. If the term Lnight is used, this means the average noise exposure from 23.00 to 7.00. The set standards / threshold values of road traffic only apply to Lden.

If you would like to out more about the noise policy, please visit the central government website: Noise pollution in the law.

Noise threshold values

The Noise Abatement Act refers to two threshold values:

  • the preferential threshold value (lower limit);
  • the maximum permissible threshold value (upper limit).

The noise exposure of a road, industrial estate or other source of noise on the surrounding buildings may not, in principle, exceed the preferential threshold value. If a contractor constructs a road, he has to calculate how much noise this road is expected to produce. If it is expected that the noise exposure of the road will exceed the preferential threshold value, dispensation will be required from the government.

The noise exposure on a home – even with a dispensation – may not exceed the maximum permissible threshold value. This can be deviated from only in exceptional circumstances by invoking the Crisis and Recovery Act Crisis and Recovery Act.

The threshold values differ for road traffic, rail traffic and industry. For road traffic, a distinction is also made between the construction of homes near existing roads and the construction of new roads near existing homes.

New homes near an existing road

As regards the construction of new homes near existing roads a distinction is also made according to the type road. An assessment is made to determine whether the homes are being constructed in an urban area or elsewhere. If the homes are being constructed in an urban area, a higher norm applies to the maximum permissible threshold value. For the various noise sources, the permitted noise exposure Lden for new homes, near an existing road, is then as follows:

Noise from Preferential threshold value in dB Maximum permissible value in dB
Motorways 48 53
Other roads (homes in urban areas) 48 63
Other roads (homes in rural areas) 48 53

A new road near existing homes

In the case of existing homes a distinction is made based on type of road traffic. For these homes the permitted noise exposure (in Lden) as follows:

Noise from Preferential threshold value in dB Maximum permissible value in dB
Motorways 50 65
Other roads (homes in urban areas) 48 68
Other roads (homes in rural areas) 48 58

Who is responsible

During the construction of new homes the municipality in which these homes are being built is responsible for restricting noise and the municipality decides regarding a possible exemption from the noise standards. In this context it does not matter whether these homes are built close to local roads, secondary roads or motorways. The point of contact for these matters is always the municipality.

If a new road is being constructed, the (future) contractor is responsible for restricting noise. In the case of a local road the municipality is responsible and the provincial government takes decisions regarding secondary roads. If a decision is taken to permit noise exposure above the threshold value and grant a dispensation, the party granting the dispensation must properly substantiate this decision. The contractor has to take noise-restricting measures wherever possible, for example:

  • tackling the source of noise, for example by laying a quieter road surface;
  • taking measures between the source and homes, such as a noise barrier;
  • taking measures in relation to the homes, for example insulation.

The central government is responsible for the main road network (including the motorways). The construction of new main roads is subject to the Environmental Management Act and the system of exemptions from noise standards does not apply but is assessed against noise emission ceilings.

Amendment of the Noise Abatement Act: SWUNG

The Noise Abatement Act offered insufficient protection against the consequences of the growth in traffic. It was actually the case that an assessment had to be carried out to determine whether the level of noise from a road or railway complied with the threshold values if new homes were to be built or if new roads and railways were to be constructed or modified. However, traffic can also increase on an existing stretch of road. If the noise exposure then exceeds the threshold values, this does not result in obligations under the Noise Abatement Act.

This has since changed and SWUNG-1 has been introduced. This imposes threshold values on the noise that motorways and railways are allowed to produce in what is known as the noise emission ceilings. These noise emission ceilings indicate how much noise a certain motorway or railway may produce as a maximum at certain points on either side.

In the coming period the aim is to implement the same system for secondary roads (SWUNG-2).

Approach to homes with excessive noise exposure (remediation)

The new SWUNG legislation also implies a decision to tackle existing homes with excessive noise exposure along motorways (and railways). This is referred to as remediation and the main road network is then subject to the Long-term Noise Remediation Programme (MJPG). The MJPG focuses on implementing noise-reducing measures in homes with a noise exposure of more than 65 dB as a consequence of a motorway.

The municipalities and the provincial governments are responsible for tackling existing homes with excessive noise exposures along local and secondary roads. However, this only applies if a home already existed in 1986 and already caused excessive noise exposure. Such homes had to be reported to the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment before 1 January 2009. The municipalities have carried out a survey and an overview will be made available per municipality.

EU Environmental Noise Directive

In 2002, the European Union (EU) enacted the Environmental Noise Directive to protect citizens more effectively against noise pollution. This directive obliges the member states to publish noise exposure maps to inform the population about local noise levels. Administrators then use these maps to draw up action plans.

In 2017 noise exposure maps and in 2018 action plans are to be made for:

  • areas with more than 100,000 people;
  • roads used by more than 3 million vehicles annually;
  • main railway lines used by more than 30,000 trains annually;
  • large airports with more than 50,000 flights per year (departures or arrivals).

The noise exposure maps have to show, in any event, the contours for various noise classes (Lden: 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 dB, Lnight: 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 dB). In addition, the number of homes and residents within these noise classes has to be determined and the number of people suffering (serious) inconvenience and (serious) sleep disturbance calculated. In the case of industrial estates any noise zones have to be displayed and for individual companies the contour of the permitted noise exposure.

The maps in the Atlas of the Living Environment have been made in accordance with the requirements of the EU directive. The noise exposure map of Europe can be consulted on the website of the Noise Observation and Information Service Europe (NOISE).


The government wants to reduce noise pollution and sleep disturbance with a number of specific measures such as the encouragement of quieter tyres, the laying of silent asphalt, the installation of sound barriers and the insulation of homes.

Make less noise

  • Wherever possible choose a means of transport other than a car.
  • If you have to use a car, drive according to The Eco Driving method.
  • Buy quiet tyres for your car and drive smoothly.
  • Do not keep the engine of your vehicle running unnecessarily.
  • Do not drive an old and noisy (4 stroke) moped, but opt for a silent electric scooter.

Preventing and reporting nuisance

Do you live close to a busy road? Choose a room on the quieter side of the home as your bedroom. Are you experiencing nuisance due to a railway in your neighbourhood? If so, you can contact your municipality or the nearest GGD.