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TRAVEL

This new European high-speed rail network will take you from Vienna to Berlin in four hours

Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria have agreed to work together to upgrade train routes and create high speed lines to improve connections between Vienna, Prague and Berlin.

A new night-train connectionion from Vienna to Brussels started in January 2020 (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP). 
A new night-train connectionion from Vienna to Brussels started in January 2020 (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP). to Berli

Travel times between the capital cities of Germany passenger services between the capital cities of Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria could be slashed in the next 15 years, if plans announced at German Rail Summit earlier this week come to fruition.

German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer spoke about plans agreed by the three countries, called the Via Vindobona Treaty for a combination of upgraded routes and sections of new high speed line.

This could allow passengers to travel from Berlin to Vienna in around five hours with limited stops, while express services could even create journey times of four hours. 

The fastest journey time between the two cities is currently around eight hours and 15 minutes. The Berlin to Prague journey time would be cut to two hours 30 minutes and Dresden to Prague to around one hour, according to Railway Gazette international. 

The news comes following plans to revive night trains across Europe, including a sleeper service from Vienna to Paris by the end of 2021.

READ MORE: Map-a return to night trains across Europe takes a step closer 

At the heart of the scheme is a 30km tunnel under the Erzgebirge on the German-Czech border, for which a joint declaration was signed in March 2020. 

This is expected to be completed by the mid-2030s, as part of a 123km high-performance railway between Dresden and Prague, cutting the distance by around 56 km.

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Czech Transport Minister Karel Havlíček said he was keen to introduce two-hourly services to the neighbouring capitals, increasing to an hourly service in the longer term.

The website Railtech reported in 2019 the Czech rail infrastructure manager SŽDC planned to construct high-speed railways in the country, allowing passenger trains to run at a speed of 320kph, more than twice as fast as is currently possible. 

Future high speed lines in Czechia
Future high speed lines are planned throughout the Czech Republic which will also speed up connections to Austria and Germany.

Austrian Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler promised a start would be made next year on a one billion euro upgrade of the 66 km Nordbahn between Wien and the Czech border at Bernhardsthal.

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BREXIT

British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

The post-Brexit requirement for drivers from the UK to obtain a 'green card' from their insurance company before visiting Europe is set to be dropped after the European Commission agreed to waive the requirement.

British drivers will no longer need an insurance 'green card' to visit Europe, EU rules
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP

The announcement from the Commission on Thursday was part of a package of measures designed to diffuse tension over the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but will apply throughout the EU.

The new rule will come into effect 20 days after the ruling is published in the EU’s official journal, which is expected to be in the next few days.

This means that British visitors taking their cars when going on holidays or family visits to France, Germany, Spain etc will no longer be required to obtain extra paperwork from their car insurance companies ahead of their journey.

Readers of a certain age will remember the ‘green cards’ – issued by the insurance company before a trip abroad. The internationally recognised card shows local law enforcement that the car is fully insured.

This requirement returned after the end of the Brexit transition period, although in practice not all insurance companies were issuing the cards and some told customers that they were not necessary.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) described the decision as excellent news for drivers.

Its director general, Huw Evans, told British newspaper The Guardian that the Commission had taken a “pragmatic approach on the matter”.

“UK drivers will no longer need to apply for a green card through their insurer which will help reduce bureaucracy for drivers and road hauliers travelling between the UK and EU,” he said.

“It will be especially welcomed by motorists in Northern Ireland driving across the border.”

Bilateral deals on driving licences mean that most EU countries continue to allow British tourists and visitors to drive on UK licences (although British residents in some countries have to swap their licence for a local one) and an International Driver’s Permit is not necessary.

There are, however, still plenty of extra requirements in place for Brits coming into EU countries, from changes to passports rules for both humans and pets to a ban on ham sandwiches – check out the complete list of new rules HERE.

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