Investments secure the future of railways

Jörg Leichtfried, Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, explains why it is important and worthwhile to invest properly in the country’s railway network.

HIGH-PERFORMING networks are the backbone of every modern state. Our investments into infrastructure equally benefit the population and companies. This includes classic infrastructure such as roads and railways as well as power grids and the ever more important digital broadband connections. Passengers, commodities, and data can travel ever more quickly from A to B while we benefit from the creation of thousands of extra jobs. The investments of the Austrian Ministry for Infrastructure secure up to 80,000 jobs annually. In everyday life we often only realise the relevance of all these networks when they stop working. In Europe infrastructure is massively underfinanced. China currently provides 9% of its GDP to infrastructure, while Europe is investing only 2.5% of its GDP into the development and maintenance of its transport, energy, and data networks. There are also indications of future higher investments in large infrastructure projects in the United States. Europe must end its gagging austerity policies and make specific investments into its future if it doesn’t want to fall behind. This is how we create jobs and at the same time secure the competitiveness of Europe as an attractive business location. At the Austrian Ministry for Infrastructure we have taken the clear decision to actively create and secure jobs through investments into research, broadband, energy networks, rail, and road.

Worthwhile investments

In Austria each year we invest approximately €2 billion into our rail network. And these investments are worthwhile. For the last three years Austrians have proven to be the most avid railway users in the EU with more than 1,400km travelled by rail per capita. Our targeted investments constitute the preconditions for the successful future of the railways. The major tunnel construction projects such as the Brenner Base Tunnel (BBT), the Koralm Tunnel, and the Semmering Base wTunnel (SBT) will massively reduce travel time by train. Once the Koralm leg is operable, the travel time between Vienna and Klagenfurt will reduce from the current four hours to just two hours 40 minutes. The BBT as one major TEN Project will massively improve the connection between Austria, Germany and Italy by bringing North and South Tyrol closer together. It offers enormous potential for shifting heavy cargo transport to rail. This will be one of the most important railway axes in Central Europe; at 64km in length it will be the world’s longest underground railway connection. Thanks to our investments, Europe is moving ever closer together. The BBT is a centennial project that will impact the lives of several generations to come.

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