Authority procedure underway for new railway line in Slovakia and Austria

Another phase in the assessment of whether a new rail cargo link between Europe and Asia is feasible was formally launched in Slovakia and Austria on November 15, 2018. The relevant ministries of both countries took in the applications necessary to allow for the environmental impact assessments.

The plans for the envisaged new cargo line already promise important improvements for the environment as they will enable to cargo to move more efficiently with all the environmental advantages that a heavy-duty cargo rail line has over transport by road and sea, in addition to the time savings to bring goods to markets in Europe and Asia. "If this new cargo railway line is built, there is a realistic expectation for moving goods from roads and other forms of transport to more environmentally acceptable railway transport. Compared to goods that use sea and water routes it would also be a much faster option from, say, Japan, China or Korea, saving up to 20 days and propelling Slovakia and Austria into the forefront of the modern cargo systems of the future," explains Anton Dulak, project manager at Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft for Slovakia.

Europe's new railway connection with Asia would also bring the significant benefits in terms of employment, tax revenues and added value for the involved countries due to greater flows of cargo. At the same time, the volume of goods transported by more environmentally friendly rail systems would increase. The conclusions were already reached by a number of studies carried out to date by Deloitte's, Roland Berger and others for Breitspur Planungsgesellschaft based in Vienna, a joint venture company jointly owned by the national railway companies of Austria (ÖBB), Slovakia (ŽSR), Ukraine (UZ) and Russia (RZD) for cooperation on this project.

Ultimately if all the feasibility studies, including the EIA in Slovakia and the SEA in Austria continue to give a green light for the project, the likely next steps are as follows:

Timetable - eight years from now

In Slovakia, a new terminal in the Nové Zámky district and a maintenance depot in Haniska will be built. A similar terminal for the transhipment of goods to other road and rail connections would be built in Austria once the new railway lines are cleared for construction.

According to the current timetable, construction of the railway connection would take approximately eight years. The start of construction of the terminals would depend on obtaining final authority approval in the participating countries, as well as the result of the completed feasibility study.

Economic benefits

The potential economic benefits of the new link to Asia for the twin city region and to all countries involved are vast. Current analysis suggest that the project would create new work in both countries for about 13,000 employees. More than half of the working opportunities would be allocated to Slovakia.

The created jobs would generate the added value of more than 28.6 billion euros in the four project countries: 2.0 billion euros in Russia; 0.3 billion euros in Ukraine; 10.8 billion euros in Slovakia and 15.5 billion euros in Austria. The project is expected to generate new tax income of more than 9.6 billion euros.

The construction of the new railway connection is estimated to cost approximately 6.4 billion euros but the benefits in terms of tax, employment and added value confirm that this sum would generate appropriate returns. The Partner countries are currently evaluating several different investment models for construction including private investment.

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