Satellite photo of the Semmering
|Elevation||965 m (3,166 ft)|
For the town of the same name, see Semmering, Austria.
The village of Semmering is on the pass. The villages of Maria Schutz and Spital am Semmering are slightly below the pass, on the Lower Austrian and Styrian sides respectively. Schottwien and Mürzzuschlag are the closest sizeable towns on either side.
As the Semmering is a major bottleneck in the Austrian railway network, the Semmering Railway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is planned to be supplemented by a tunnel at the base of the mountains. The project is supported by the Austrian Federal Government and the governments of Styria and Carinthia, but has been heavily opposed by the government of Lower Austria, which stalled the project by issuing negative environmental impact statements. The project has now been revised according to the advanced state of technology and the layout of the line has been altered in order to minimize effects on ground water.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held at Gloggnitz on April 25, 2012 to officially launch preliminary construction works for the 27.3 km Semmering Base Tunnel. Opening is planned for 2024. The €3·1bn base tunnel between Gloggnitz and Mürzzuschlag is a key part of the 'new Südbahn' project. It will eliminate the current bottleneck on the 41 km Semmering Railway route where steep gradients and numerous curves require freight trains to use two or three locomotives.
The tunnel will comprise two 10 m bores between 40 and 70 m apart, linked by cross passages every 500m. Boring is planned to start in 2014, with excavation completed ready for fitting out from 2021. The tunnel will be designed for passenger trains to run at up to 230 km/h, shortening Wien - Graz journey times by 40 min to 1 h 50 min, which is expected to attract more customers to rail.
The Semmering ski resort, called Zauberberg, which also hosts World Cup events, is located at the pass and extends on to the Hirschenkogel mountain. It is mainly used by skiers from Vienna, from where it can be reached within one hour, but increasingly also by people from Hungary and Slovakia.
The Semmering Pass is featured on a famous commemorative coin: the 25 euro 150 Years of the Semmering Alpine Railway Coin. The reverse of the coin shows a typical Semmering view. A steam engine has just emerged from a tunnel crossing one of the distinctive viaducts.