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17. 05. 12. - 15:56

Petrol traders plan legal action

The domestic mineral oil industry plans to sue the government about plans to set up a tool regulating fuel prices.

People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner announced last month he planned to create a strict car petrol price monitoring programme. Mitterlehner explained that his ministry planned to introduce a system for a "price corridor" valid for periods with lots of car traffic like long weekends and public holidays. The system will mean that Austria’s service stations must not charge more than the average price they asked for on the seven to 10 days before of the crucial period.

One litre of diesel fuel cost 1.41 Euros on average yesterday afternoon (Weds), according to motorists’ association ÖAMTC, up from 0.72 Euros in 2002. The price for Eurosuper developed similarly in the past years, according to the organisation. ÖAMTC and Arbö, Austria’s other leading association of car owners, endorsed Mitterlehner’s planned measure. The Traffic Club (VCÖ) showed support for the minister as well.

Now the Austrian Mineral Oil Industry Association said it would check all possible juridical steps against the upcoming price frame law. The organisation branded the minister’s decision as a "populist act". It added that prices in Austria had been "clearly below" the European average for years. Apart from firms in Slovenia, petrol stations in all of the seven countries which border with Austria charge higher prices for diesel and Eurosuper petrol.

The constant increase of car fuel prices already showed manifold effects. Discount petrol station chain Turmöl said it sold 15 per cent more diesel petrol and 12 per cent more Eurosuper fuel in the first three months of this year than during the first quarter of 2011. The Upper Austrian enterprise said the number of customers had been especially high at weekends.

Federal Railways (ÖBB) seems to benefit as well. ÖBB head Christian Kern announced that the state-funded railroad firm recorded more passengers especially on the countryside. He said ÖBB would continue to replace old seats with new versions on many of its trains to ensure a further improvement of service quality.

Kern said the Austrian railway business was more dominated by the fight between train traffic and motorised transportation than the clash of ÖBB and its new private rival, Westbahn. "The (A1) western motorway is losing out," he said.

Westbahn entered the track last December. The company – which also offers domestic and cross-country coach services – is active between Vienna and Salzburg, with interest to expand its railway operations to routes such as Graz – Linz. Westbahn was founded by Strabag head Hans Peter Haselsteiner. It is headed by ex-ÖBB manager Stefan Wehinger.

Austria comes second in the European Union (EU) as far as the average per capita train service usage is regarded. People living in the country took the train for an average 1,270 kilometres (km) in 2010. France is ahead with a per capita travel record of 1,370 km.

Austrians bought 32,700 cars last month, down by 1.8 per cent compared to April 2011. Sales soared by one per cent to 88,800 from the first quarter of 2011 to the same period this year. Around 356,000 vehicles were acquired in the country last year – more than ever before.

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