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Construction began yesterday on what will be the world’s longest tunnel, linking Innsbruck, Austria to Fortezza, Italy, 34 miles to the south.

The tunnel, which will allow trains to move freight between countries, is part of the European Commission's master plan to eradicate conventional cars from European city centres and reduce carbon emissions from all transport by 60% in the next 40 years.

In a bid to reduce Europe's dependency on oil and cut emission to below 1990 levels, the plan will create a unified infrastructure system for the entire continent that would get nearly 500 million citizens out of their cars, for good. The plan calls for changes in urban, intercity and long-distance travel. Petrol-fuelled cars will be phased out of cities by 2050 with a goal of carbon-free movement of goods, while most short-haul flights of 185 miles or less will be replaced by rail travel and 50% of road freight will be moved to either rail or water transport. All major airport hubs will be connected to high-speed rail and ports to inland waterways, and a 40% reduction in aviation emissions will be gained by using low-carbon fuels.

The plan was introduced by Siim Kallas, the moustachioed EC transport commissioner, who was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1970s, which has British broadsheets like The Telegraph up in arms. Politicians, columnists and car manufacturers have decried the 1.5 trillion Euros it will take to implement the plan, but the fact remains oil prices will continue to rise and that European transport relies on oil for 96% of its energy.

It is an ambitious strategy that detractors say is impossible to enact, but naysayers should remember that it follows the same incremental process that successfully brought in the Euro, with benchmarks to be met each year.

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