Austria to invest €21bn into rail network

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Austria’s national rail company, ÖBB, is set to undergo a transformative phase with the Austrian Government’s announcement of a substantial €21.1 billion investment into the country’s rail network. The newly revealed 2024-2029 framework plan places a strong emphasis on expanding regional services, maintaining critical infrastructure, and promoting sustainable travel options.

The core focus of the framework plan is the expansion of regional passenger services in metropolitan areas. Minister Leonore Gewessler highlighted the significance of this expansion, stating that it will lead to more trains and attractive connections, marking a crucial milestone in Austria’s transition to sustainable transport. The plan also prioritizes the electrification of rail services, aligning with environmental goals and promoting cleaner energy sources.

Apart from sustaining ongoing projects like the Brenner Base Tunnel, the plan introduces several new initiatives. These include the construction of the Köstendorf to Salzburg line, double-track expansions on key lines, and improvements to the Ossiacher Lake train. The funding allocation emphasizes accessibility improvements, the use of renewable energy, and a separate €4.7 billion investment for the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

The framework plan underscores the economic benefits of rail investment, with studies showing that €1 of investment in rail creates €2 in value for the national economy. Moreover, a €1 billion investment is expected to generate around 15,000 jobs during the construction phase. This dual impact of economic growth and job creation aligns with the government’s objectives to combat the economic downturn.

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The framework plan actively encourages a modal shift towards more environmentally-friendly rail transport. By providing increased capacity on new and upgraded lines, ÖBB aims to make regional services more attractive and contribute to the government’s climate protection objectives. This investment is not only an environmental boon but also contributes to employment stability in the construction industry and related sectors.

The plan extends beyond ÖBB, incorporating infrastructure projects at the state-owned Graz-Köflacher Railway. With a merger on the horizon, €500 million will be invested in GKB, emphasizing the comprehensive nature of the framework plan.

Project Adjustments and Delays:

While the plan outlines ambitious projects, adjustments to delivery schedules are noted. Delays in the construction of the Northern line and double-tracking on the Franz Josef line are attributed to an extended planning and authorization process. These adjustments, while postponing some projects, aim to optimize project delivery.

Austria’s ambitious rail expansion plan signifies a commitment to sustainable transport, economic growth, and job creation. By addressing regional service expansion, electrification, and infrastructure development, the framework plan charts a comprehensive course for ÖBB’s future. As the largest rail package in Austria’s history, this investment is poised to redefine the country’s rail landscape, providing a robust foundation for long-term transport transition.