Private Vienna – Salzburg train service on track soon

Strabag boss Hans Peter Haselsteiner’s ambitious bid to break the Austrian Railways’ (ÖBB) monopoly will start next year.The construction business entrepreneur announced today (Thurs) that his private Westbahn railway service between Vienna and Salzburg was set to operate from December 2011.Haselsteiner – whose firm Strabag is one of the biggest players in European construction industry – said he planned to invest 130 million Euros in the train project.Haselsteiner managed to get Benedikt Weibel on board for his future operation. The Swiss manager headed Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) between 1993 and 2006.Weibel explained he saw potential for many more people travelling by train between the Austrian capital and the birthplace of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart than there were at the moment.Haselsteiner and Weibel announced the plan was to stop in more stations on the 300-kilometre route between the tourism magnets, while covering the distance faster than ÖBB.These announcements come as ÖBB is going through one of its biggest crises.People’s Party’s (ÖVP) financial affairs state secretary Reinhold Lopatka said it was unacceptable that the firm’s staff retired with an average age of 52.Josef Bucher, head of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), meanwhile suggested the government should privatise parts of the company to get it back on track.ÖBB’s operating profit had been 121 million Euros in 2009 after it had suffered 970 million Euros in losses in the previous year.Former Verbund manager Christian Kern took office as ÖBB head earlier this month.He said his main aim was to make Austrians feel proud of the company. Kern pledged to improve ÖBB’s service offerings to raise consumers’ satisfaction.