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The EU Commission disapproves of broad gauge extension from Slovakia to Austria
The European Commission opposes the plan that will see an extension of the broad gauge railway line from Slovakia to Austria, whose construction may commence by the end of this year; the project is about to enter the next phase, moving closer towards the realisation of the ambitious project, according to Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB).
In February 2018 ÖBB and Russian Railways (RZD) signed a cooperation agreement that is supplementary to the 2011 agreement which provided for the development of cooperation in the markets of third countries.
The broad gauge railway line, called the ‘Russian gauge’, currently runs via Ukraine to Košice in Eastern Slovakia. The parties would like to see an extension of the line to Vienna.
According to ÖBB it is now planned to extend the single-track route from Košice to Parndorf in order to make the greater Vienna area an intermodal hub for goods from the Russian and East Asian regions and to better open up this area for European goods.
Such a terminal could only be built in the TEN-Network, as the terminal would not only be connected to Austrian railway network, but also to the motorway network. Most of the goods to be redistributed throughout Europe would be transported by rail; a feasibility study shows an additional freight traffic volume of 20 million tons per year by 2030, expected on the railways in the Vienna area. Moreover, it boosts trade relations between Europe and China. The route via Austria, Slovakia and Ukraine to Russia and China onwards is increasingly gaining importance on the New Silk Road and this railway line would only improve these connections.
The feasibility study has been completed; next, preparations are made for the official permits to commence with the Slovakian project section and, to involve the public, in particular affected federal states and municipalities, the Austrian railway company outlines.
According to Russian media, Minister of Industry Denis Manturov said the project is at the funding finalisation stage, and construction should commence by the end of this year.
The construction cost for the 400-km long single-track electrified plug from Košice to Vienna has been calculated at 6.5 billion euros and include 40 km of tunnels and a bridge over Danube river.
However fierce criticism has been expressed by the European Commission since the project would in effect benefit of a few companies, rather than the railway sector as a whole, in clear breach of the rules of the single European rail transport market.
“In the EU, through the TEN-T policy, we are promoting a certain number of standards to ensure a free and equal access to the market to all EU companies; the plan to extend the broad gauge to Austria does not fit within these ambitions and money must be invested in a different manner, such as developing solutions which would help overcome the technical differences between the two gauges. There are already good examples of such solutions in passenger rail between Spain and the rest of the continent” stated Maja Bakran Marcich, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE).