ITALIAN State Railways and Brenner Eisenbahn GmbH have set up a joint venture called Brenner Base Tunnel EWIV to mastermind a two-year planning process that should culminate in a report setting out detailed design for the 54 km bore. Launched on November 17 in Brussels, the jv is based in Innsbruck, with work ’starting on December 1’, according to BEG Director Hans Lindenberger. It is charged with defining the alignment, drawing up safety concepts and producing a funding package.

The tunnel is now costed at Sch60bn, of which Sch5bn is needed for test bores. Cost of the two-year planning work is Sch250m, half funded by the EU as part of a Trans-European Network project. The Austrian and Italian governments are funding the other 50%. The financial package for the main work is likely to take the form of a public-private partnership and will probably include road tolls for using the Brenner motorway.

Austria and Italy are giving strong backing to the base tunnel, with political leaders in North and South Tirol saying that rail is the only way to accommodate future growth in the Brenner corridor. Target date for completion is 2015.