Road cargo volume may rise as RCA ups rates

Tons of cargo could be taken off the rails and transported on Austrian roads as cash-strapped Federal Railways (ÖBB) have raised their fees.ÖBB’s cargo transport subsidiary company Rail Cargo Austria (RCA) decided recently to increase rates by around 30 per cent in a bid to get back in the black. ÖBB head Christian Kern said recently RCA may suffer losses of around 300 million Euros – “more than initially expected” – this year.Now a pressure group formed by businesses in the wood-processing and paper-making industries has warned that they will assign hauliers to transport an additional five tons of cargo of wood and wood products it initially planned to transfer via railways. Forst Holz Papier explained today (Weds) this amount equals 200,000 lorries.Kern announced last month that he decided to remove RCA co-chiefs Günther Riessland and Friedrich Macher from executive power. The ÖBB head said this step had to do with the soaring losses RCA has making for its parent company over the past few years.Kern, who took office in June, explained that Riessland and Macher will not be dismissed but asked to continue working for ÖBB in different roles. This decision is understood to be a successful attempt to avoid paying millions of Euros of compensation to the businessmen. The managers would have been eligible to call for high sums in the case of an early dismissal due to clauses in their contracts.Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) official Martin Blum recently called for measures to avoid an “avalanche of lorries” rolling over the country as industrial companies may prefer assigning hauliers instead of RCA due to its fragile economic position.Political leaders in Austria have shown little interest in trying to raise the amount of cargo transported by train instead of on the road since former Social Democratic (SPÖ) Traffic Minister Caspar Einem’s “Schiene statt Verkehrslawine” (Rails instead of a ‘Traffic Avalanche’) flopped in 1998.ÖBB has debts of 12 billion Euros, and Kern – who is close to the SPÖ – made it clear that he wanted to get the partly state-owned firm in the black by 2013. The ÖBB chief earns 500,000 Euros a year, around 100,000 Euros more than his predecessor Peter Klugar.The railway operator’s reputation may have suffered due to the recent occurrences and its financial struggle. Surveys have, however, shown that last year Austria was ranked second place  in the European Union (EU) when it comes to how often citizens use trains. France topped the ranking with an average 1,361 kilometres, while Sweden came third (1,190 kilometres) behind Austria (1,297 kilometres).