U-Bahn shutdown to affect 250,000 passengers

Fears of a rush hour traffic chaos are spreading among commuters in Vienna as three underground stations will be shut later this summer.

Public transport service provider Wiener Linien announced yesterday (Weds) there will be no service on the U6 line between Westbahnhof station and Alser Straße station from next Monday (18 July). The company explained that the stations Burggasse, Thaliastraße and Josefstädter Straße would be closed until the end of August due to extensive renovation work at the latter station.

These announcements come less than a month after Wiener Linien claimed Josefstädter Straße would be the only affected stop. Refurbishment activities at the station designed by celebrated late architect Otto Wagner are already ongoing. No U-Bahn trains are stopping at the station. Wiener Linien said it decided to stop operations between Westbahnhof and Alser Straße as experts found out more and increasingly complex work was needed to improve the condition of the station.

The company – which is monitored by the city government coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Green Party – promised to set up a short-interval tram service at the affected connection. Wiener Linien abandoned plans to get more buses on the roads due to the immense traffic volume at the Gürtel street running alongside the U6 track in question. Around 250,000 passengers could be affected every day.

Passenger representatives and opposition politicians are infuriated about Wiener Linien’s late information about a complete shutdown of the busy U-Bahn line. Unnamed Wiener Linien staff told Viennese newspapers decision-makers failed to act when more and more rifts in the ancient walls of Josefstädter Straße station were discovered several years ago.

Wiener Linien has more than two million passengers a day. The company sold over 360,000 annual tickets last year – more than ever before. The tickets cost 449 Euros. The firm did well in various international comparisons as far as travel times and the overall quality of its services and facilities are concerned. However, experts criticise that single tickets are too expensive at 1.80 Euros. This type of ticket may become more expensive later this year if the city’s coalition reforms the pricing system to offer cut-price rates to people on low income. Leaders of the SPÖ and the Greens have refused to comment on newspaper reports claiming they were negotiating such steps.