New Wiener Linien bosses named

The supervisory board of Wiener Linien has elected the Viennese public transport agency’s new executive leaders.

The panel announced today (Fri) Alexandra Reinagl and Eduard Winter will co-head the company from September. Both businesspeople have experience in the public transport business. Reinagl, a former Verkehrsverbund Ost-Region (VOR) public transport network manager, will be the firm’s first female chief.

Günther Steinbauer’s term as head of the executive board of Wiener Linien was extended. The leadership switches were needed after Michael Lichtenegger announced last month he had decided to retire as co-chief. The businessman entered the executive board in 2004.

The vacant positions were advertised. Reinagl and Winter are widely regarded as highly competent. However, newspapers also claim that they were the desired candidates of Viennese Social Democratic (SPÖ) Finance Councillor Renate Brauner.

The councillor has come under fire herself over Vienna’s drained coffers, the city’s soaring jobless rate and a string of controversial investment endeavours and construction projects. Brauner’s bid to succeed SPÖ Vienna boss Michael Häupl as mayor of the capital was dealt a massive blow in May when only 72.1 per cent of SPÖ Vienna delegates confirmed her as member of the party’s board at a general summit. Häupl garnered more than 89 per cent.

Polls have shown that the vast majority of Wiener Linien customers are satisfied with the firm’s services. However, it got into the firing line of some Viennese media and groups representing passengers’ interests for announcing the temporary closure of three underground stations just days before carrying out the measure.

There is currently no service on the U6 U-Bahn line between Westbahnhof station and Alser Straße station due to extensive refurbishment and renovation activities. The work will continue until the end of next month, Wiener Linien announced less than a week before the project started.

A few weeks before the decision to shut down the three busy stations completely was made, the agency claimed that only Josefstädter Straße would be affected. Wiener Linien then argued it opted to stop operations between Westbahnhof and Alser Straße after being informed by experts that the needed renovation was more complex and extensive than they had initially assumed.

Wiener Linien claimed earlier this week it managed to avoid chaos at the affected U-Bahn line with its preliminary tram service operating at especially short intervals.

Experts fear significantly worse effects in summer 2012 when the U1 line will stop operating between Reumannplatz station in Favoriten district and Stephansplatz station in the city centre for around seven weeks.

Wiener Linien said in February the repairs of the service’s outdated electronic appliances and train tracks necessitated the complete closure in both directions. The company admitted that ensuring a smooth service to affected customers would be “certainly a challenge.”

The firm is currently negotiating whether the introduction of a bus service or extra tramway connections would be the best alternative service in the area.

Reumannplatz is the final stop of the U1 line. It is one of the busiest stations in the city’s public transport network as tens of thousands of residents of the city and many people living outside Vienna normally switch to the U-Bahn there to get to work.

Wiener Linien has more than two million daily passengers. The company – which sold more than 360,000 annual tickets in 2010 – may soon reform its pricing system. Newspapers report some tickets will become more expensive to allow the city coalition of SPÖ and Greens to offer low-cost rates to the poor and jobless. Other reports suggest that people who use Wiener Linien’s services on a regular basis will benefit from the reform expected to happen as early as this autumn.

A single ticket currently costs 1.80 Euros. An eight day rider ticket costs 28.80 Euros. Wiener Linien charges 449 Euros for an annual pass. People caught using the public transport network without a valid ticket have to pay 70 Euros.