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Work begins on Semmering Tunnel

Semmeringbahn Viadukt

The Semmering railway, a UNESCO world cultural heritage site: the new tunnel is due for completion in 2024. Austria will continue to pay for it until the year 2066. © Alliance for Nature

The authorisation proceedings have yet to be concluded, but the excavators are already on the move for the building of the Semmering rail tunnel. Austrian politicians have given the project the green light, ignoring loud protests and empty state coffers.
The rail tunnel under the Semmering, at 27.3 kilometres, is one of the longest rail tunnels in Austria, will cost some three billion euros and has been the subject of heated debate for the past 20 years. Work is due to begin on 25 April, and to be concluded in 2024. Green light was given by the politicians, even though the necessary proceedings were not terminated yet. As early as February preliminary works started and e.g. in Gloggnitz, Lower Austria, two dozen houses were torn down and roads moved. The Austrian parliament also voted last week to invest 33 billion euros in rail infrastructure until 2017. This will burden Austria's state finances with a total of 26.67 billion euros until the year 2066. These funds are not only intended for the works on the Semmering, but also for the financing of the equally disputed Brenner and Koralpe tunnels.
The nature protection organisation, "Alliance for Nature", is challenging the proceedings so far: the Lower Austrian regional authorities are alleged to have employed biased experts. The environmental compatibility investigation is also alleged to have ignored all 1,500 objections. Alliance for Nature further criticises the fact that the politicians, by allowing work to start regardless of the objections and pending procedures, are intending to establish a fait accompli. A petition to the administrative court may yet stop the megaproject.
Source and further information:
http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/economist (de), www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXIV/I/I_01755 (de), http://noe.orf.at/news/stories/2529304/ (de), http://cba.fro.at/wp-content/uploads/openup (de), http://derstandard.at/1334530869403 (de)