DB aims to overcome paralysis through Brenner Base Tunnel.

The creation of the Brenner Base Tunnel in the Alps is a massive global railway undertaking. Political leaders in Bavaria, Germany, had previously held back the project. However, progress is imminent.

May 27, 2024
3 min read
NewsRailroad projectFederal Ministry of TransportDelayBuilding projectSpringGermanySouth TyrolMediterranean SeaRailroadGerman RailwaysFreight trafficDBBavariaLocal trafficBuildingTunnelAustriaBrenner base tunnelBundestagItalyParalysisMunichKlaus-Dieter JoselAlps
Twenty years after the contract for the construction of the Brenner Base Tunnel was signed, the...
Twenty years after the contract for the construction of the Brenner Base Tunnel was signed, the German side has not even completed planning for the supply line to Europe's longest railroad tunnel.


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Open transportation systems - DB aims to overcome paralysis through Brenner Base Tunnel.

Despite prolonged political delays, Deutsche Bahn aims to kickstart its plans for the German section of the Brenner Base Tunnel in the Alps by the end of this year. The next step involves submitting the developed route variant by DB to the Bundestag and the Federal Ministry of Transport, as per the outgoing DB Group representative in Bavaria, Klaus-Dieter Josel. He added, "We'll have the documents ready by the end of the year, and plan to present them to the Bundestag in spring 2025." The 55-kilometre-long Austrian-Italian tunnel is expected to revamp the current slow train service between Germany and Italy while providing much-needed relief to the residents of the Brenner highway in North and South Tyrol, who have endured exhaust fumes, noise, and chronic traffic jams for decades. This isn't just a local issue; it affects thousands of truck drivers and German holidaymakers in Italy, in addition to the countries that rely on trade through the pass, such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Netherlands.

The passage was firstly an important trade route in the Middle Ages, and today, it remains the most affordable way for freight forwarders to cross the Alps. The Brenner northern approach forms part of the crucial European Scan-Med axis, connecting Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Josel adds, "We need this route." Presently, passenger trains take over five hours to travel from Munich to Verona. With the tunnel, that journey will be reduced to just three hours.

The base tunnel doesn't touch German soil, but to utilize its full potential, the access route must be expanded. The current route follows a 160-year-old route from Bavarian royal times running from Rosenheim through the Inn Valley to the Tyrolean border. DB is now planning a new 54-kilometre route, steering clear of villages. Approximately 30 kilometres will be built as tunnels. This doesn't please the locals, who maintain, "Modernize existing infrastructure instead of destroying the environment." The motto of the Brenner Dialogue initiative is, "Closer to the destination, further from the environment."

The critics are not against the railroad. They want more freight transport on rails and stronger regional transport. They believe the existing route should have been upgraded years ago. "Citizens are not responsible for the delays," adds Lothar Thaler, a board member of the initiative. Austria and Italy have already made progress on their routes, and the most significant section has recently started construction.

Josel stands firm, "We're engaging in a highly active planning dialogue and feel that acceptance has grown. We expect planning approval to be given in the early 2030s, followed by the commencement of construction soon after. Possible operation could be accomplished in the early 2040s." Josel underlines that the planning is not "too late." "The current route with trains of shorter length often needing two or three locomotives will be replaced by trains over 740 metres in length with increased loading capacity in the Brenner Base Tunnel. While the volume of goods transported will rise, it won't be abrupt," Josel adds.

The crucial question, whether the Inn should be bridged or tunnelled under, is still a matter of contention. Josel states, "A tunnel under the Inn would cost at least one billion euros more, with some routes taking up to three billion more." Nevertheless, the target of launching operations by 2040 is contingent on minimal additional delays. Thirty years ago, the CSU's push for expansion was resolute, but their zeal has since dwindled. In 2004, Austria and Italy decided to build the tunnel, and in 2012, Berlin and Vienna agreed to coordinate its planning.

The outcome of Ramsauer's tenure in 2017 saw Alexander Dobrindt assuring citizens' initiatives that a review of the need for the new route would be conducted. In Munich, the CSU's coalition partner Hubert Aiwanger joined the state government in 2018, and the alliance has local opposition to the route. Suddenly, the Bavarian coalition agreement in 2018 stated: "The necessity for a new route in the case of the Brenner access route must be proven." The present version in the 2023 reissue: "We'll keep working to make sure the Brenner northern approach happens smoothly for local residents."

Growing Discontent with Bavarian Politics

Dissatisfaction with politics in Bavaria's economy is escalating, with anger now aimed at more than just Berlin. "For years, both road and railway traffic have reached their capacity limits, resulting in significant economic losses due to bottlenecks and traffic jams," warns the Munich and Upper Bavaria Chamber of Industry and Commerce. To avoid any additional losses, action is urgently needed.

Vienna's Planning for the Future

Vienna's plans are being keenly watched; they anticipate the corridor will need four tracks by 2040 to handle anticipated volumes efficiently. A representative from the Austrian Ministry of Transport shares this perspective.

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