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Alpine rail bonanza ahead

AUSTRIAN RAILWAYS is preparing for a massive £14bn spending boom over the next 15 years with work waiting to be snapped up by the UK construction industry.

British railway engineers on a Government trade mission to Austria last week were told to simply find Austrian partners and start lobbying the railway companies to be part of the bonanza in the Alps.

Director general for railways at the Austrian Transport Ministry Dr Karl Hartig said that firms had simply to contact the Austrian state railway company OBB, the high speed railway company HLAG and the Brenner tunnel railway company BEG to get hold of tender details.

'But in reality the key is to have an Austrian partner,' he added.

Hartig outlined a number of massive rail projects planned over the next 15 years including the 55km Brenner Pass tunnel (see above). This is part of the European Union-funded Trans-European Network route from Munich to Verona and a new high speed rail link to Vienna airport.

'We have to upgrade the railways to prevent an increase in freight on the roads,' said Hartig. He confirmed that by 2015

about £14bn will be spent on rail reconstruction.

Austria's railways are at a crucial point in their development, having just been restructured into infrastructure and operating sectors as required by the EU and in preparation for possible future privatisation.

The British companies were told that their experience from Britain's railway privatisation and the private finance initiative meant they were ahead of their European counterparts.

Austrian rail sector reports can be obtained from Mike Carroll at the DTI. Tel: (0171) 215 4979.

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