By Sandy Guthrie04 February 2011
The Austrian government has given its approval for work to start on the Brenner Base Tunnel which will run from Innsbruck in Austria to Fortezza in Italy.
It is part of the approval of the Austrian Railways framework programme 2011 to 2016 (ÖBB Rahmenplan). Work on the Brenner Base Tunnel will begin this year.
Austria will invest approximately € 1,3 billion in the tunnel infrastructure up to 2016. The EU said it expected the investment of almost another € 1 billion in the Brenner Corridor by the end of 2013. It said this was by far the highest TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Networks) contribution of all the 30 EU Priority Projects.
Excavation will start from Innsbruck in the north and Fortezza in the south, while work on the central part of the tunnel between Ahrental and Trens will begin in 2016. It is hoped that the 56 km tunnel will remove a major bottleneck for both freight and passenger transit.
Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice President responsible for transport, and Pat Cox, the European Co-ordinator responsible for the Brenner Corridor as the centrepiece of Ten-T's Priority Project No 1 (Berlin to Palermo), welcomed the Austrian decision.
Mr Kallas said: "In this economically difficult situation, the achievement of a sustainable European transport policy is more important than ever. The Brenner Base Tunnel will deliver a crucial contribution to the modal shift from road to rail, and to the protection of the sensitive Alpine environment."
Mr Cox added: "Today's decision reflects the progress that has been made on both sides, by Austria and Italy, in recent months on this important TEN-T priority project. It is a tribute to all those who have worked with such commitment to ensure the realisation of one of Europe's major future rail corridors."
He added, "I look forward to driving the project ahead in the coming months. I attach great importance to good co-operation between all the stakeholders involved in this project - national, regional and infrastructural."