LAST MONTH was due to see work start on a long-planned chord through the southwest suburbs of Wien, allowing freight trains to avoid the city. Starting at Hadersdorf-Weidlingau on the Westbahn, the line runs in the 13 km Lainzer tunnel to Hetzendorf on the Südbahn. A spur continues southeast to surface outside the built-up area and join the Donauländebahn, allowing freight trains to reach Kledering marshalling yard. Preparatory works entail moving catenary masts to make room for a construction site at Purkersdorf Sanatorium.

The Lainzer tunnel paves the way for other projects that will create a freight ring round the city, freeing capacity on several lines for enhanced S-Bahn services. Route S7 will be upgraded and doubled to allow a 15min interval service to Wien-Schwechat airport. Work on this Sch3bn scheme should get under way at the end of this year.

Preparations are also starting for quadrupling a further section of the Westbahn between Enns and Linz at a cost of Sch2·3bn. Hochleistungsstrecken-AG expects to have the job finished by 2006. Segregation of traffic flows will permit inter-city trains to run at 200 km/h. Sound barriers are planned at Pichlingersee, and where the line passes close to housing.

Austrian Federal Railways has meanwhile begun running direct trains over new track to Bratislava in Slovakia. Using the trackbed of a line closed in 1945 between Parndorf on the Ostbahn and Kittsee, the route was extended to Petrzalka and across the Danube into Bratislava, with just 1·7 km of the 24 km single-track link on Slovak territory. Electrified at 15 kV 162/3Hz, the line carried its first train on January 7. From May 30 there will be three return workings a day from Wien plus stopping services between Bratislava and Bruck an der Leitha.