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AUTOBAHN

Austria tests higher motorway speed limit

Austria on Wednesday raised the speed limit to 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph) from 130 km/h on two stretches of one of the country's main motorways.

Austria tests higher motorway speed limit
AFP

The higher speed limit, introduced by Transport Minister Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), is widely seen as an attempt to woo motorists.

By increasing their speed on the 60 kilometres of affected motorway, drivers reportedly stand to save two minutes travelling from the capital Vienna and the western city of Salzburg. 

The trial will run for a year.

Opposition parties, green activists and others have criticised the move, citing an increased danger of accidents and higher environmental pollution.

Hofer has said motorways and cars have improved, so it's time to test if the speed limit can be raised. 

He tweeted last week when announcing the change: “We are building motorways, not 'slow roads'”.

In neighbouring Germany, known for its no-speed-limit motorways, the average speed comes down to around 120 km/h due to roadworks.

A coalition government of the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the FPOe has governed Austria since December.

GERMANY

Austria says it will take Germany to court over autobahn ‘foreigner tolls’

Germany's upper house of parliament on Friday approved a controversial law imposing tolls on the country's famous autobahns (motorways), in the face of objections from neighbouring countries who say it discriminates against foreign drivers.

Austria says it will take Germany to court over autobahn 'foreigner tolls'
Photo: Wolkenkratzer/CC BY-SA 4.0

Austria immediately announced it would file a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice.

The law is the result of a compromise struck with the European Commission last month, after it threatened to take Germany to court if the toll project was not made fairer to foreigners.

It includes lower costs for the short-term passes most likely to be used by visitors, with prices for a 10-day pass now starting at €2.50 ($2.67) for the most environmentally friendly cars.

The price for an annual pass will be capped at 130 euros for German and foreign cars, but German-registered drivers will essentially be refunded the money thanks to a matching reduction on their motor vehicle tax bill.

Berlin's plans have angered neighbouring Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands which see the toll as a levy on foreign cars only.

It was “not a good sign for Europe” that Germany was introducing the toll, Green party politician Winfried Kretschmann told the Bundesrat — the upper house of parliament representing Germany's federal states — on Friday, calling it a “foreigner toll” that would inflict “great political damage”.

German states that border other countries fear the toll will discourage tourism and trade with neighbours.

But conservative transport minister Alexander Dobrindt has rejected the criticism, saying that most cross-border traffic moves on smaller roads not subject to the charge.

Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried, announcing in Vienna the planned legal challenge, called the European Commission's behaviour “scandalous” and the toll “discrimination based on nationality”.

READ ALSO: Six reasons why I never want to drive on the autobahn again