Austria’s ‘bold’ 2040 rail plan could dramatically cut travel times

“It is a rail network for a climate-neutral Austria in which climate protection and good mobility go hand in hand.”


Austria has come up with a ‘bold’ new plan to expand its rail network over the next 16 years.

By 2040, the Alpine country is set to add dozens of new routes and connections as part of an ongoing effort to broaden the appeal of train travel.

Three years ago, it launched a ‘Klimaticket’ – an affordable, annual ticket that Greenpeace praised as the best in Europe for covering all means of public transport. A new generation of night trains to Germany followed last year. And one rather eye-catching campaign to get more young people aboard trains with a tattoo offer.

“The target network 2040 is our vision of what a modern rail system in our country could look like. It is a rail network for a climate-neutral Austria in which climate protection and good mobility go hand in hand,” said Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler during the unveiling of the plan last month.

“The design is full of bold ideas, new connections and even better railway lines,” she added. “[It] is the right compass for a sustainable rail infrastructure for the next fifteen or twenty years.”

What does the 2040 rail network plan mean for Austria?

The 2040 network plan from the government and national rail operator ÖBB is currently in draft form. The public will be able to have their say before it’s completed later this year.

This ‘major vision’ of Austria’s rail future covers 67 projects in 25 clustered areas – including a new double-track line in Upper Austria and Bavaria that is expected to drastically cut travel time between Vienna and Munich.

By 2040, passenger trains will travel a total of 255 million kilometres per year. That’s one and a half times more than they do today, according to the plan.

In creating the blueprint, ÖBB and the government have prioritised the expansion of international connections as well as regional transport and networking in metropolitan areas.

The cost of the draft measures adds up to around €26 billion. But the government considers it an investment worth making – and one that Austrians will reap the benefits from in new jobs and greater connectivity.

Which Austrian train routes are getting upgrades?

The new line through Upper Austria and Bavaria is one of the flagship projects of the improved 2040 network.

This New Innkreisbahn (NIB) route (also being considered from the German side) could slash the travel time between Vienna and Munich from four to two and a half hours. The shorter travel time could also benefit more distant international destinations such as Paris.

Vienna’s local transport services are set to get an upgrade too, with the expansion of the line between Vienna Heiligenstadt and Vienna Praterkai.

And it promises that the expansion of railway lines in the Bregenz area will “massively improve” local transport in the entire Rhine Valley.

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