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Bridge Deal to Speed Up Polish-German Train Travel

After four years of negotiations, German and Polish officials agreed to a deal dividing the costs of maintaining the 13 railway bridges connecting the two countries. The accord came just in time for a pair of bridges.

Three trains

Trains will be able to roll across new bridges by mid-December, officials said

Two aging railway bridges across the Oder-Neisse line, the valley dividing Germany and Poland, are to be replaced under an agreement signed on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The agreement shares the costs of maintaining all 13 railway bridges across the Oder River and its tributary, the Neisse. Currently two bridges are so old that trains can only cross them slowly.

Transport ministers Wolfgang Tiefensee of Germany and Cezary Grabarczyk of Poland signed the agreement in the border city of Frankfurt an der Oder and then ceremonially began work on one of the bridges in the city.

One bridge, one country

Grabarczyk and Tiefensee lifting a board

Grabarczyk, r., and Tiefensee kicked off work on one of the bridges

To be completed by December, the new bridge over the Oder will be entirely paid for by Germany for a total of 25 million euros ($37.3 million) and is needed to speed up trains using the main line from Moscow to Paris via Warsaw and Berlin.

Poland will replace a bridge to Horka, Germany across the Neisse River. That link on the Wroclaw-Leipzig line is to be restored by 2011. Grabarczyk could not say how much the project will cost Poland.

Rather than splitting maintenance costs for the 13 international bridges, Berlin and Warsaw agreed each bridge would be the responsibility of one country. Until Tuesday, each nation was responsible for the upkeep of half of every bridge.

"With this treaty the construction and maintenance needs of the rail bridges between both countries will be regulated for the first time," Tiefensee said of the agreement that took four years to negotiate.

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