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UK firms race for Brenner tunnel

BRITAIN’S BIGGEST civil engineering companies are jockeying for a chance to build the 2.5bn, 55km Brenner pass railway tunnel through the Alps from Austria to Italy.

Balfour Beatty, Amec and WS Atkins all formed part of a Department of Trade & Industry trade mission to Vienna last week to find out more about the massive European Union funded project. It is expected to go out to tender early next year.

Balfour Beatty also revealed that it has tendered for two tunnelling contracts worth 400M, part of Switzerland’s massive 7bn Alp Transit project to build 198km of railway under the Swiss Alps.

The Brenner tunnel is part of a 409km EU-funded rail link between Munich and Verona. Construction on the 8.4bn Trans-European Network route began in 1995 and will continue until 2012.

Austria is keen to build the Brenner section of the route as soon as possible to reduce pollution and relieve road freight and rail traffic congestion in the Alps. But the project has already been delayed by a year long environmental impact study.

Hans Lindenberger, director general of Brenner Eisenbahn, the Austrian state-owned railway company responsible for the project, said that as financing had not been finalised it was interested in possible private finance for the project.

‘Governments are talking in the next few weeks about how to get the project off the ground,’ said Lindenberger. ‘It is already running over time and discussion is needed between the governments about how it will be financed - 50% of the planning costs and 10% of the construction costs will be covered by the EU. The rest will be mixed finance. There are a number of suggestions to be studied.’

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