Crackdown on fare dodgers in Vienna

Fare dodgers are in for a tough time, Viennese public transport agency Wiener Linien has warned.

The company said today (Tues) it has drastically increased the number of checks on passengers. Wiener Linien staff asked more than 2.3 million passengers for their tickets in the first three months of this year. Fewer than three per cent of customers failed to show a valid one, the firm told the Kurier newspaper.

Wiener Linien revealed that, between January and March 2011, more checks than in the whole year 2004 were carried out. It said that the 2.33 million enquiries in the first quarter of 2011 meant an increase of 15 per cent compared to the same period of last year. Wiener Linien stressed it will keep the number of ticket controls up.

Wiener Linien recently focused on controls in which more than 50 employees blocked all entrances of main hubs like Karlsplatz station in the city centre. In these checks, everyone leaving and entering the underground stations is asked to present a valid ticket. People caught without one are fined 70 Euros. The amount of the penalty was only recently increased from 60 Euros.

The company dismissed claims that especially members of a certain social class were commonly caught without a valid ticket. Wiener Linien added that tourists were normally always equipped with valid ones.

Public transport claimed a share of 35 per cent of overall individual movements in the city in 2009. The city’s government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens said its goal was to raise the share by five per cent until 2015. The parties plan to spend more on the services, while speculations have it tickets may soon become more expensive to enable the SPÖ-Greens administration to make special offers to people who earn little.

Around one out of three Viennese households own at least one annual Wiener Linien pass which costs 449 Euros. There is a bicycle in one of two homes, whereas nearly six in 10 Viennese households own a car.

More than two million people take trams, buses and U-Bahn trains to travel around Vienna each day. The city’s public transport network features 4,360 stops. Wiener Linien came third in the EuroTest 2010 check on public transport networks of 23 cities across the continent. Munich in Germany sailed through the examination with flying colours. The public transport network of Finnish capital Helsinki made second place. Pricing, travel times, quality of information and other aspects mattered in the EuroTest 2010 investigation.

The Viennese People’s Party (ÖVP) has called on the SPÖ and the Greens many times to build another underground line linking the north and the south of the city. The conservative opposition party suggested the service could be called U5. Vienna features five U-Bahn lines but no U5 line. The ÖVP also wants the U4 extended in the west to make commuting easier for people living in the city’s suburbs and towns in Lower Austria. SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl dismissed the suggestion, arguing that the situation was fine thanks to the regional train services.

It is understood that the possible extension of any U-Bahn lines is not on the agenda of the Viennese government for the foreseeable future. One of the reasons is the tense situation considering Vienna’s coffers. SPÖ Vienna Financial Affairs Councillor Renate Brauner is forced to make painful cuts this year to drag the immensely indebted capital closer to the black.