Work has officially begun in earnest on what will be the second longest tunnel in the world – linking Austria and Italy.
It is hoped the 55 kilometre Brenner railway tunnel will ease congestion and lower pollution on the existing motorway that crosses the Alps at the Brenner Pass.
The main construction phase only got the go-ahead after several guarantees of finance finally came through. The project is being paid for by Austria, Italy and the European Union.
The governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter said: “It’s a historic day regarding Tyrolean and European transport politics. Firstly I’m happy that the Brenner Base Tunnel is going to be built. Secondly, I want the European Union to shape transport policy towards shifting lorry freight onto the rails.”
It is estimated the building work will cost 9.7 billion euros – the EU has promised three-quarters of a billion up to 2014. After that its contribution will have to be determined.