Liechtensteiners say ‘nein’ to new railway

A train but of the road variety makes its way through Liechtenstein's capital, Vaduz. [Photo: RossHelen / Shutterstock]

Liechtenstein voters on Sunday (30 August) opposed plans to fund a new international rail link between Austria and Switzerland, which is supposed to pass through the tiny Alpine principality. More than 60% voted no during a national referendum.

According to a provisional agreement with the Austrian government, which owns the 9-km stretch of rail that already runs through Liechtenstein, the track would be doubled and a central railway station at Nendeln upgraded so international trains could stop there.

In April, Liechtenstein’s Deputy Prime Minister Daniel Risch signed a letter of intent with Austrian Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler, teeing up a deal that would see the microstate pay half the construction costs, to the tune of more than €60m.

The country’s executive, the Landtag, voted in June in favour of the rail expansion plan but also agreed to put the idea to a referendum in August. At the ballot, 62.3% of voters decided to reject the idea, with the costs cited as the overriding concern.

The project would have opened up Liechtenstein to international rail travel as Nendeln station could then be used by the Vienna-Zurich RailJet service. An hourly regional service was also planned for the route.

In May, Liechtenstein’s infrastructure minister said that the development of Nendeln could be accompanied by extra transport links and possible housing developments, given that the area would be brought within the catchment area of its neighbouring countries.

Austria and Switzerland were among 25 European countries to back a pledge by transport ministers in June aimed at boosting cross-border rail travel. Liechtenstein was not among the signatories, which is unsurprising given that it only has one stretch of track.

Railway expansion was not the only idea to fall by the wayside on Sunday. Voters also opposed a plan to enshrine gender parity in political bodies in the constitution, as well as a proposal that would have allowed Liechtensteiners to hold dual citizenship.

24 countries sign pledge to boost international rail routes

Twenty-four European countries agreed on Wednesday (3 June) to work together on international rail transport and make it “an attractive alternative” over distances where it is currently not competitive.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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