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The direct line between Prague and Vienna was last available in the '90s, Source: ÖBB/Philipp Horak

Austrian Climate Minister wants to cut taxes on cross-border rail tickets

Austrian Climate Minister wants to cut taxes on cross-border rail tickets

The announcement came just as authorities presented their plan for a Vienna-Prague direct train route

Yesterday, the Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Action, Leonore Gewessler, and the Governor of the state of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, announced that a direct train connection from Vienna to Prague will be available as soon as this December. The move is part of the rail revival, happening across Central Europe, as more and more countries are revising their cross-border passenger rail connections.

The new route will be called ‘Silva Nortica’ and will take a projected five hours. This connection could become part of the Vienna-Prague-Berlin line, pledged in 2021. The ‘Silva Nortica’ will pass through Lower Austria, showcasing the country’s vineyards and forests and cross the border at Gmünd.

According to Minister Gewessler, in shorter and mid-distance trips, passengers can take full advantage of the climate-friendly and cost-effective train and public transport services. However, cross-border train rides can be quite pricy, so to boost interest, she added that from 2023, cross-border train tickets will be exempt from a sales tax.

franz joseph line

L-R: Minister for Climate Action, Leonore Gewessler,
Governor of the state of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner,
Source: Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner on Facebook

Refitting the 19th century for a sustainable future

The direct train line from Vienna to Prague will start operating again for the first time in 26 years. Furthermore, it will take advantage of the Franz-Josefs-Bahn infrastructure. The Franz-Josefs-Bahn was a piece of rail infrastructure connecting Vienna with Egar, located near Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. The line was constructed in the mid-19th century, during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Similar developments have been sprouting across the European Union, as governments are embracing trains as a way to move goods and people sustainably. This includes projects like the Vienna-Brno direct line, the Luxembourg-Brussels fast train, as well as the Berlin-Szczecin line, which is supposed to reinvigorate rural communities in Brandenburg.

To a large extent, the train revival has been spurred on by the European Year of Rail in 2021, which set the target of doubling high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050. In fact, connecting large urban centres in the EU with rail would create a quasi-public transport system, according to Minister Gewessler, that would fuel suitable mobility across the bloc.

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