Train travel less popular, study shows

Austrians took the train less often last year, new figures reveal.

The Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) announced today (Fri) that residents of the Alpine country covered 1,270 kilometres (km) by train in 2010, down from 1,297 km in the year before. This figure puts Austrians into a leading position in Europe. Only people living in Switzerland (2009: 2,341 km; 2010: 2,390 km) and France (2009: 1,361 km; 2010: 1,370 km) travelled on trains more often in the past two years.

The VCÖ – an independent research and information organisation campaigning in favour of eco-friendly means of transport – has appealed to Federal Railways (ÖBB) and Austria’s political leaders to invest more in the domestic railroad network many times.

Experts have pointed out that ÖBB is not making a profit with any of its routes except its Vienna – Salzburg service. The debt-stricken firm’s turnover rose by 6.4 per cent to 5.14 billion Euros from 2009 to 2010. Especially the poor performance of its affiliate Rail Cargo Austria (RCA) has put ÖBB under pressure. RCA was the national railway company’s most valuable asset before many firms cancelled their partnerships during the economic crisis. An increasing number of businesses have assigned hauliers to transport their goods on the road at the same time.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Infrastructure Minister Doris Bures recently said ÖBB must not be sold. Her appeal came shortly after People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Maria Fekter suggested privatising the struggling company. Bures argued ÖBB should be supported in its current process of restructuring instead.