Austria’s national rail company ÖBB has begun preparations for another expansion of its rail network on the Werndorf – Spielfeld-Straß southern railway line in the south of the state of Styria. 

The operator will convert the entire line to a double-track and modernise all stations along the route while also removing all railway crossings with the construction of a large road bypass in Ehrenhausen by 2036. 

In collaboration with the state of Styria, the bypass project will move traffic on the B69 road around the Ehrenhausen town centre and involves the use of an existing bridge and the construction of a new tunnel. 

The expansion and bypass project will also sit alongside the electrification of the nearby Radkersburger railway which is also expected to be complete by 2036, with both projects backed by a total of €878m in funding from the country’s Ministry for Climate Action. 

Styrian Government Project Manager Thomas Waidgasser said the authority was pleased to be taking on the project with ÖBB and believed it would benefit the infrastructure for the entire region. 

He said: “As part of the southern railway expansion, the state road administration has a unique opportunity to implement this Ehrenhausen bypass project. 

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“By significantly shifting traffic to the bypass, the population is massively relieved of noise and air pollutants and the quality of life increases significantly.” 

According to the national rail company, the upgrades to the Radkersburger railway will save 400,000 litres of diesel per year, while the improvements to the Werndorf – Spielfeld-Straß line are hoped to take 1,200 cars and 400 trucks off the road each day, an equivalent to a 550,000t reduction in CO2 emissions. 

Additionally, technical work conducted in collaboration with the Slovenian railway network will make it easier to cross the border by rail and reduce travel time between the Austrian city of Graz and Slovenia’s Maribor by 25 minutes. 

The expansion and electrification plans are part of ÖBB’s wider five-year plan, which was backed by a €21.1bn investment from the Austrian Government last year and is focussed on expanding regional passenger services and improving the country’s rail infrastructure. 

Work in the Styria region has been welcomed by the local authorities, including Ehrenhausen Mayor Johannes Zweytick who said: “For our community, the planned B69 bypass is a major improvement in the quality of life in the town and has been a wish for many years. 

“The fact that this will now be implemented together with the significant upgrade of the railway line and the modernization of Ehrenhausen train station is an important milestone for the development of our community and the entire region.”