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A railjet train of the Austrian national Railway passing through the countryside , Source: ÖBB/Philipp Horak

2026 rail tunnel Graz - Klagenfurt promises to transform south Austria

2026 rail tunnel Graz - Klagenfurt promises to transform south Austria

The new route will take only 45 minutes, which will reinvigorate the region and create dozens of commuters between the two regional capitals of Styria and Carinthia

Austria is constructing a massive new rail tunnel between the cities of Graz and Klagenfurt that is set to finish in 2026. According to analysis published today by the company Joanneum Research, this connection, in particular, can have a profound impact on developing the whole region as a fast-paced metropolitan area.  

With the new tunnel, the trip between two of Austria’s biggest cities will only take 45 minutes as opposed to the current one and a half to two hours. This can create connections between the two cities, as well as a flexible and mobile workforce, a win-win situation, according to the research.

Additionally, the Klagenfurt - Graz line, also known as the Koralmbahn, is part of the Baltic-Adriatic rail corridor. Considering it will slice through the Alps, one of the biggest natural barriers in Europe, the Koralmbahn is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the whole of the EU.

A metropolitan area of international significance

According to the research, the new line would create a natural agglomeration between Graz and Klagenfurt, which are also regional capitals of the Austrian Federal States of Styria and Carinthia, respectively.

The expanded urban agglomeration will be home to about 1.1 million people, with around half a million employees. Additionally, the area is home to around 130,000 people working in manufacturing.

At the same time, researchers stipulate that living space along the train line would start to become more attractive as a calm and cheap rural alternative to living in either one of the cities. Furthermore, living in one of the would-be commuter towns would grant workers much more flexibility to choose between employment in both cities or, even, both states.   

Moreover, officials from Joanneum Research, also claim that the new rail tunnel can strengthen the integration between federal states in Austria itself, removing barriers and borders.

Eric Kirschner, a spokesman for Joanneum Research was quoted in a press statement, explaining that the effects resulting from the changed accessibility are significantly positive, both in terms of economic dynamics and competitiveness, i.e. economic growth and employment, and in terms of demographic development.

However, he continued by pointing out that the positive effects are not a given, but rather a conditional result of a pre-designed framework of measures to accelerate the synergies of the project. He said that these measures need to be designed and used proactively, both regionally and internationally.

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