Emperor Franz Joseph I travelling to Czech Republic in his own court train (1901)

Austria and Czech Republic join forces to bring ‘Emperor Franz Josephs railway’ into the 21st century

Emperor Franz Joseph I travelling to Czechia in his own court train (1901)

Named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the ‘Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Bahn’ is a railway that connects the Austrian capital Vienna to Prague in Czech Republic. Its first section went into operation in 1868. Now, more than 150 years later, it’s time for further development of the route, the Transport Ministers of Austria and Czech Republic have agreed.

The history of the cross-border line connecting the current Czech Republic and Austria goes back to the 19th century. In Central Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a major force, involving not only those two present-day countries but also kingdoms in current Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and many more. It was also the time of continental Europe’s first railways.

Starting off with steam trains, the Emperor Franz Josephs railway was gradually electrified in several stages. In 1995, the entire Austrian section was declared an electrified main line. On the Czech side, however, one section remains without electrification. This is the section between Veselí nad Lužnicí and České Velenice, near the Austrian border. In the Czech Republic, the electrification of this section is being prepared, which will enable an alternative connection between Prague and Vienna via Gmünd, both for passenger and freight transport.

The Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Protection and Transport Leonore Gewessler and Czech Minister of Transport Martin Kupka signed a joint declaration to support the development of the cross-border railway on 27 March and reduce the travel time. The electrifcation on the Czech side should be completed in 2028.

Austrian minister Gewessler and Czech minister Kupka sign the agreement
Austrian minister Gewessler and Czech minister Kupka sign the agreement

“We consider the development of the transport connection with Austria to be one of the main priorities of the Ministry of Transport”, said Kupka. The travel time from Vienna to Prague via the railway will be reduced from 5 hours and 10 minutes to about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Already from next year, two trains daily will run there and back, said the Austrian minister Gewessler.

“We will sustainably strengthen public transport and offer people a modern infrastructure and an attractive range of services. This is how the climate turnaround succeeds”, Gewessler said on Twitter.

No more emperor behind the wheel in Austria, now minister Leonore Gewessler is in charge – of transport at least

The modernisation of this line is also key to the direct connection of important regional centers in, such as the Austrian Tulln or the Czech cities of Třeboň and Tábor. “From next year, passengers from these cities can look forward to connections via two pairs of trains a day”, added Kupka.

The ministers confirmed to continue the work on expanding the high-speed train connection from Vienna to Berlin via Prague and reduce the travel time to about 4 hours. In Austria, the northern railroad will be upgraded to up to 200 kilometres per hour in the next few years to this end.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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