COMPLETION of the Paris - Bratislava Trans-European-Network project inched a step closer in April when a symbolic start was made in south Germany on upgrading the 146 km route from München Ost to Salzburg via Mühldorf.

The ceremony was held at Ampfing on April 19, one day before the 'Trunk Routes for Europe' summit in München. Held in Germany because of that country's presidency of the European Union, the summit brought together representatives from 33 regions, towns and chambers of commerce that have been campaigning for the TEN projects. Supported by the Brenner Railway Action Group, the meeting focused on the Paris - Bratislava and Berlin - Palermo TEN projects.

Present at Ampfing were Federal Secretary for Transport Karin Roth and Transport Minister for Bayern Erwin Huber, as well as Klaus-Dieter Josel, Deutsche Bahn AG's Representative in Bayern. They heard EU TENs Co-ordinator Dr Péter Balázs say that he would only recommend EU funding for the work if the München - Salzburg project was treated as a single scheme - although this still allowed for the work to be completed in stages, as is currently planned.

The message will not have been lost on the German government, which holds the purse strings for investment in transport infrastructure. Plans to upgrade the München Ost - Mühldorf - Salzburg route have existed since the early 1980s. The project was originally put forward as an alternative to upgrading the parallel motorway along the Isen valley, but justification later centred on releasing capacity on the München - Salzburg line via Rosenheim as traffic grew on the Brenner route into Italy. However, rail freight over the Brenner actually declined, causing DB's freight business to lose interest. DB's Long-Distance Passenger division also saw no benefit in supporting the project.

Although the scheme has been listed since 1993 in the 'urgent' category of the federal government's strategic transport investment plans, finance for the first stage has only just been agreed. The federal government is paying for most of the k64m cost of doubling and resignalling the single track 7·8 km Ampfing - Mühldorf section, and there is now a firm programme for work on successive sections: Mühldorf - Tüßling, Markt Schwaben - Hörlkofen and Thann-Matzbach - Dorfen. Agreement has also been reached to build separate tracks for S-Bahn services over the 21 km from München Ost to Markt Schwaben.

At a later stage electrification is envisaged on the section from Markt Schwaben to Freilassing and the branch from Tüßling to Burghausen. The work will complete a second double-track electrified route all the way from München Ost to Salzburg. Total cost is put at k800m.

Influencing the government's decision to move the project forward is the revival of freight traffic following rapid expansion of the chemical industry in southeast Bayern. Also significant is the plan to build a chord line that will allow trains from Mühldorf to run directly on to the line serving München airport as diesel traction is not permitted in the underground station at the airport, electrification to Mühldorf is essential.

  • CAPTION: Despite appearances, this ceremony on April 19 to mark the start of work on upgrading the Ampfing - Mühldorf section of the München - Salzburg route was strictly symbolic as approval for the project is not expected until later in the summer. Only then will tenders be called, suggesting that real work will not start until the autumn. From left to right: EU TENs Co-ordinator Dr Péter Balázs, Federal Secretary for Transport Karin Roth, Transport Minister for Bayern Erwin Huber, Deutsche Bahn AG's Representative in Bayern Klaus-Dieter Josel