Despite crushing coronavirus budget deficits, Austria is moving ahead with a plan to make its rail network carbon-neutral by 2035, largely by electrifying lines where diesel is now used.
Part of the push for environmental projects comes from the Green Party, which the center-right People's Party is relying on in a coalition. Traditionally, the PP opposes government deficits, but because of the pandemic and green projects, it is projecting a deficit equal to 6.3% of GDP.
The electrification program works in tandem with Austria's plan to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels; 67% of its energy now comes from coal, oil or gas. In order to achieve carbon neutrality by the country's 2040 goal date, not only will the trains need to run on electricity, but it will need to be cleaner electricity.
The plans also include measures to encourage more use of the rail network, including incentives such as creating a low-cost annual pass system for local and regional transport and disincentives such as a €40 minimum for airfare and a tax on flights under 350 kilometres.