Traffic chaos fears over lengthy U1 service stop

Public transport officials in Vienna have rubbished claims that mayhem will be bought about when it shuts down one of its busiest U-Bahn connections for several weeks next year.Wiener Linien, which manages public transport service in the federal capital, announced today (Mon) that it will stop offering service on the U1 underground line between Reumannplatz and Stephansplatz station for around seven weeks in the summer of 2012. The company argued the total shutdown in both directions was necessary to repair the service’s outdated electronic appliances and train tracks.Answer Lang, a spokesman for the firm, said ensuring a smooth service during the weeks the works will be carried out was “certainly a challenge for Wiener Linien”.Lang said logistic chiefs at the company have not yet finalised their concept over how schedules could be adapted during that period to keep the loss of time for commuters as low as possible. He explained the routes of the line 1 and line 6 line tram could be altered, adding that the introduction of an extra bus service on the affected route was likely.Critics have claimed that Wiener Linien will not manage to ensure hassle-free commuting during that time span due to the busy traffic on affected roads and high activity on the service which will stop operating.Reumannplatz is the final stop of the U1 line in southern Vienna. The station is located in the heart of Favoriten, the city’s most-populous district. Reumannplatz is one of the busiest stations in the city’s public transport network.Tens of thousands of residents of the city as well as a large number of people living outside Vienna take the U-Bahn from the station to get to work each day. The vast majority of people who work in Vienna but live outside the city opt to travel by public transport due to intense rush hour traffic.Reumannplatz is situated around four kilometres from Stephansplatz in the city centre where popular sights such as St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) are located. The temporary shutdown of operations in 2012 will affect six stations including Karlsplatz, Vienna’s busiest interchange station.The U1 line started operating 33 years ago. It is the second-busiest among Vienna’s five underground train connections after the U4.The pressure on Wiener Linien has increased in recent weeks due to several incidents in which passengers were trapped in trains stuck in tunnels. In one occurrence, around 250 passengers were forced to stay inside a crowded U-Bahn train for two hours following a technical failure. Wiener Linien decided to compensate the affected people with eight-day rider tickets each worth 28.80 Euros. The firm made clear it would not pay out any further compensation.While some commentators claimed the city government should reduce its subsidies for Wiener Linien due to the high number of errors, others suggested the company should raise its ticket prices to finance an improvement of the infrastructure of its network.Wiener Linien is an affiliated company of the city of Vienna. The provincial government, which is currently formed by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens, supports the public transport provider with around 700 million Euros per year.Wiener Linien’s underground network features 101 stations over a distance of 75 kilometres. It has around half a billion passengers each year. Its most recent expansion was finished shortly before residents of the city headed to the polls last October. Opposition politicians and newspapers claimed this was not a coincidence but an attempt by the ruling Viennese SPÖ to avoid defeat in the election.The party of Mayor Michael Häupl lost its absolute majority in the ballot. It subsequently agreed with the Greens to cooperate in the provincial parliament – a decision which may have heralded a revolution in traffic policies considering the Green Party’s strenuous support for better cycling paths, cheaper public transport tickets and more 30-kilometre-per-hour (kph) speed limit zones for road traffic.