The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted a €1.8bn loan to the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) for expansion and modernisation of its routes in the south of the country.

To be disbursed in installments of €600m over the next three years, the loan will cover the Semmering base tunnel, a part of the South Vienna freight terminal and a section of the planned double-track section of the Pottendorf Line.

According to ÖBB, the Southern Route (Südstrecke) between Vienna and Graz will be extensively modernised by 2026.

"The upgrading of the Südstrecke is a crucial project for the railways and for Austria as an economic hub."

The projects are on the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor of the European Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) core routes.

ÖBB-Holding chief financial officer Josef Halbmay said: "The upgrading of the Südstrecke is a crucial project for the railways and for Austria as an economic hub. In this way, we are creating the conditions for faster and less polluting mobility.

"Under this partnership with the EIB, we are financing this economically beneficial project on favourable terms."

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By GlobalData

The Semmering Base Tunnel (SBT) between Gloggnitz and Mürzzuschlag is 27.3km-long and will have two parallel tunnels.

In June, a consortium of Implenia, Hochtief and Thyssen Schachtbau was awarded a contract to build the Gloggnitz Tunnel.

The tunnel’s low gradient of around 0.85% will allow operation of heavy freight trains in the future using a single locomotive.

Following completion, passenger trains in the tunnel will be able to reach 250km/h, reducing journey times by 30min between Vienna and Graz.

In the first phase, the new South Vienna freight terminal on the edge of the city will cover an area of around 55ha and will provide a central gateway for transport to the north, south, east and west.

The double-track extension of the 24km-long Pottendorfer line between Hennersdorf, Münchendorf and Wampersdorf will increase the capacity of the southern route.

Following completion of the entire project, there will be four tracks between Vienna and Wiener Neustadt.