Generic picture of wagons.

AUSTRIA: The final go-ahead for the construction of the Brenner base tunnel is due to be signed at a meeting of the German, Italian and Austrian transport ministers on May 18. Infrastructure Minister Doris Bures announced on April 15 that legal procedures were complete.

The 55 km tunnel will have two single-track bores, plus a drainage tunnel 12 m lower than the running tunnels. This will be built first to determine geological conditions. The distance between the track centres will be 70 m, and there will be cross-passages every 333 m. Three crossovers will have ‘multi-function areas’ serving as emergency stations at Trens, Steinach and towards the northern end of the tunnel. There will be a connecting tunnel to the Innsbruck bypass and a portal giving direct access to Innsbruck.

Power supply will be at 25 kV 50 Hz, with changeover from ÖBB’s 15 kV 167 Hz in approach tunnels at each end. ETCS Level 2 will be installed, with passenger trains running at 250 km/h and freight at 160 km/h.

The cost is put at €6bn at 2006 prices, and funding sources are expected to include the European Investment Bank and a reserve fund from tolls on the Brenner motorway which have been collected for this purpose since 1998. Construction will be in the hands of the promoting company Galleria di Base del Brennero - Brenner Basistunnel BBT SE, and December 31 2025 has been set as the completion date. Work is in progress on two exploratory and access tunnels.