Tyrol pushes for Brenner Tunnel progress "Bavaria must do it's bit"
Planners on both sides of the Alps are under pressure over the Brenner Base Tunnel. The planned mega-project between Innsbruck and Franzenfeste is threatening to fall behind schedule and the Bavarians now need to speed up their construction work.
The Austrian state of Tyrol is placing increasing pressure on its northern neighbours to pick up the pace on planning and building work on the Brenner Base Tunnel (BBT). In just a few years the rail tunnel, spanning nearly 60 km, will link Italy to Munich under the Brenner massif, relieving one of the most important transport links in the Alps.
"Bavaria must do all it can to ensure that the connecting rail link to Berlin remains a top priority", said Tirol Governor Günther Platter at a meeting with the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann in Steinach am Brenner.
He observed that Austria has already made much greater progress on expansion of the rail network to link up the transnational infrastructure project. Herrmann stressed: "We are 100% behind the project and we do not want Bavaria to become a bottleneck." He said that he wanted "to ensure the project proceeded quickly, but not by going over the heads of the public - despite the time pressure."
Herrmann's concerns relate to the lengthy planning procedures north of the Alps. If, for example, legal processes or public protests delayed the preparatory work, the centrepiece of the transport project, the Brenner Base Tunnel, could be finished before the connecting rail network in the north, he explained. In this case it could take years for the desired benefits from the transfer of trans-Alpine goods transport to the railways to come to fruition.
Germany's connection in the south
The planned tunnel between Innsbruck and Franzenfeste is already recognised as a highly significant project. The Brenner Base Tunnel is part of the high-speed link between Berlin and Palermo planned by the EU and it is the largest current cross-border transport project between Austria and Italy. Experts expect that it will also have a significant effect on rail and road freight transportation in Germany.
At around 64 kilometres in length, the tunnel will open up another north-south rail transport link, in addition to the Gotthard Base Tunnel. When finished, the Brenner railway will provide a 425 km passenger and freight rail link between the cities of Munich and Verona.
"TUNNEL WITH EARS" SETS THE STANDARD FOR AUSTRIA
Austria's tunnels are set to become safer when they are equipped with "ears". The acoustic safety system has already been tested for three years in the Kirchdorf tunnel on the S35 motorway at Bruck. The system will now be extended nationwide.
An accident in a tunnel would be many drivers' worst nightmare, but if that were to happen the new monitoring system can ensure that help comes quickly, saving time and possibly lives.
Franz Graf, Project Manager at Joanneum Research, explains how the new system works: "Microphones are fitted in the tunnel. The acoustic signals from these microphones are instantly forwarded to a computer and automatically evaluated. Critical events are then immediately reported to the operator. The correct video camera is activated at the same time, so the operator in the monitoring centre sees precisely what is happening in the tunnel within a second.
Up to two minutes faster
The system has been tried out over the past three years in a pilot project at the Kirchdorf tunnel in Styria. Alois Schedl from ASFINAG, the Austrian state motorway company, describes the results: "This acoustic warning system lets us find out about incidents, accidents and other events one or two minutes faster than with traditional warning systems, so we can react faster and prevent more serious accidents or possibly fires, minimising the damage caused."
32 Tunnels will be equipped with "ears"
Following the positive test results, the acoustic system will now be installed in other tunnels. This new system is currently being set up in the Bosruck Tunnel in Styria, and it will be in use from next year.
The system will be installed in a total of 32 tunnels in Austria over coming years, including the Plabutsch Tunnel and the Gleinalm Tunnel. Installation will cost around 100,000 Euros per kilometre of tunnel, meaning a national investment of around 16 million Euros. ASFINAG and Joanneum Research are confident that in the future other countries will also be interested in the Austrian idea of "tunnels with ears".