CEOs Bergmeister and Zurlo leave Brenner 19 Sep 2019

Roland Herr for TunnelTalk

Joint Chief Executive Officers, Konrad Bergmeister and Raffaele Zurlo, of the Brenner Base Tunnel (BBT) project delivery organisation have left their positions with immediate effect. Confirmed at a meeting of the Supervisory Board on 17 September 2019, the decision brings an end to the turbulent relationship between the two men, which, reports indicate, was a key factor in the Board’s move to replace them. Prof Bergmeister of Austria had been CEO of BBT since 2006, while Zurlo of Italy took up his BBT position in 2010.

New CEOs Gilberto Cardola (left) and Martin Gradnitzer (right)
New CEOs Gilberto Cardola (left) and Martin Gradnitzer (right)

Martin Gradnitzer of Austria and Gilberto Cardola of Italy will take over as joint CEOs for their respective countries for the bi-national mega-project. The new CEOs are accredited experts of the Austrian and Italian railway companies, according to a BBT statement. Gradnitzer has been Project Manager at ÖBB Infrastruktur, a 100% subsidiary of the Austrian railway company, ÖBB-Holding, working on the Lower Inn Valley access route to the BBT in Austria, ÖBB-Holding spokesman Christoph Mair-Gasser told TunnelTalk. Gilberto Cardola was responsible for management of national activities at Italferr, a company of the Ferrovie dello Stato Italiano state railway company.

The official information behind the decision to replace both CEOs is sparse with Mair-Gasser only confirming that Bergmeister had offered to resign despite his contract being extended last year. Zurlo had also received a three-year extension to his contract earlier in 2019. Local news reports suggest the decision was made at the end of June 2019, when the BBT Supervisory Board met in Vienna. The departure of Bergmeister and Zurlo was made at that meeting with two new CEOs to be appointed by September 2019.

Prof Konrad Bergmeister
Prof Konrad Bergmeister
Raffaele Zurlo
Raffaele Zurlo

The relationship between the two men has always been fraught and was complicated further by the dual system of decision-making at BBT, which straddles both Austrian and Italian jurisdictions. The problems had come to a head when the project moved to construction and the different regulations and laws in the two countries were applied to the tender invitation and procurement processes. Processes that were routine in one country could raise legal difficulties in the other. In addition, the project was under pressure from the European Union, which wanted to reduce its financial support.

Commercial construction invoicing will now be separated and executed under the national laws of Austria and Italy.

“Without Konrad Bergmeister, BBT would never have been developed and approved so quickly,” said Martin Ausserdorfer, a member of the Supervisory Soard. “With courage and conviction, challenges have been accepted and handled pragmatically. That is why, at the institutional level, BBT is the best project in Europe. Raffaele Zurlo brought the precision and accuracy of his formulations to the project. Each document was created and substantiated in detail so that the future was understandable for everyone. He made sure very decision was transparent and beyond reproach.”

Joint CEOs Gradnitzer and Cardola now take up the responsibilities of taking the project through to completion of construction and inauguration of services on the new trans-alpine rail infrastructure. To date more than 47% of the total 230km of twin main running, exploratory, and access/services tunnel excavation is complete. All excavation is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2023 on the Italian side and a year later, at the end of 2024 or early 2025, on the Austrian side, with train services expected to begin in 2028.


Add your comment

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.
In case of an error submitting Feedback, copy and send the text to
Name :

Date :

Email :

Phone No :

   Security Image Refresh
Enter the security code :
No spaces, case-sensitive