INTERNATIONAL lorry drivers crossing Austria after the summer will have
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the option of transferring their vehicles to railway wagons which will carry them piggy-back from frontier to frontier. The Government says that if hauliers boycott the scheme and the special trains remain empty, it will not hesitate to introduce legal measures.
The move could have far reaching consequences in Europe as it could be copied in other countries, such as Switzerland and even West Germany, which are concerned about the growth of lorry traffic and have a preference for the railways.
For years, the Austrians have been trying to get financial compensation from Brussels for the pounding which their road system gets from the EEC's international road traffic.
They estimate that some 3,500 lorries pass through in transit every day, carrying about 18.5m tonnes of goods annually.
Most vehicles are travelling between West Germany and Italy (on the Brenner Pass route) but there is also considerable traffic heading to and from Greece.
From next autumn, Austrian Railways will put a fleet of low wagons with small wheels at the disposal of hauliers.
The authorities claim the switch to rail will ease pressure on the roads, reduce accidents and speed up the carriage of goods.
Some experts, however, fear congestion at the borders because of lack of loading and unloading facilities.
It may therefore be necessary to load trains already in Germany — in Munich or in Nuremberg.