Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC)

The creation of a homogeneous and interoperable European railway system is an important requirement if the railways are to compete with the other transport modes, road haulage in particular. To that end, the European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC) defines a network of railway lines of major international importance, together with the parameters for infrastructure on these routes. The AGC is intended as the basis for coordinated governmental action in development of the European rail network.

The AGC was drawn up under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It came into force on 27 April 1987. Its objective is the creation of a homogeneous and interoperable European rail network. Twenty four European states are Contracting Parties to the Agreement (see map). Belgium has begun the ratification process. Portugal has signed the Agreement but not yet ratified it. Austria acceded as a full member in 2002. (text of the Agreement: see link)

Content of the Agreement

The Agreement comprises the main body of the Agreement plus

  • definition of a network of railway lines of major international importance (Annex 1, for the Austrian AGC network see figure) and
  • definition of infrastructure parameters (Annex 2).

Annex 2 (AGC parameters) lays down, inter alia, nominal minimum speeds for these AGC lines as follows:

  • existing lines and lines to be improved or reconstructed: 160 km/h
  • new lines: 300 km/h on lines for passenger traffic only; 250 km/h for passenger and goods traffic.

The "Yellow Book" is an inventory, published by UNECE, of existing AGC routes and the standards and parameters relating to them. UNECE's main Working Party on Rail Transport meets once a year in Geneva, amongst other things to complete the ongoing work of updating the Agreement (see link: Yellow Book).

Implementation in Austria

Even before Austria signed up to the Agreement the AGC parameters were already observed during the construction of new rail lines in Austria and modernisation of existing ones. On signing the AGC, however, Austria issued a statement to the effect that because of the country's difficult topography (mountainous regions) compliance with the parameters, particularly with regard to speed, could not be guaranteed in every case. Austria's accession to the AGC was approved by the National Council at its 6 July 2001 sitting. The original English-language text of the Agreement together with a German translation was published in the Federal Law Gazette BGBl. No 147/2002 of 9 July 2002.