SPÖ under fire as majority want 24-hour U-Bahn

Vienna opposition party leaders have attacked the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ) after it emerged that the majority of residents taking part in a referendum back a 24-hour underground train service at the weekend.SPÖ Councillor Sandra Frauenberger announced today (Tues) around 54 per cent of people participating supported of an around the clock U-Bahn service on Fridays and Saturdays.Frauenberger said 276,834 ballots have been counted, adding that this figure consisted of ballots handed in at public offices and a majority of postal votes.Christine Marek, chief-elect of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) in Vienna accused the SPÖ, which has an absolute majority in the city council, of providing leading questions in the five-question referendum held last week.All three opposition parties, the ÖVP, the Greens and the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) were furious with SPÖ bosses over various issues regarding the referendum.Referring to the fact the question about a 24-hour weekend underground train service also stressed such a change could cost around five million Euros per year, Marek said: “The plan was to take voters for fools.”The ÖVP Vienna boss claimed the SP֒s mobilisation attempts failed since only around 26 per cent of Vienna residents took part in the referendum.SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl argued the opposition would “ignore” the approximately 300,000 people who took part while FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache labelled the participation as “embarrassingly low”.Häupl said ahead of the referendum he would be satisfied with a participation of around 25 per cent.The mayor today pledged to realise the results of the referendum “as soon as possible” on political level. But he refused to name a specific date.The SPÖ – which, according to surveys, is under threat of losing its absolute majority in the city elections set to take place in October – has opposed a 24-hour underground train service, while the ÖVP and the Greens have campaigned in favour of service plan changes for months.Greens Vienna leader Maria Vassilakou today appealed to the SPÖ not to cut back the currently existing “NightLine” bus service when introducing a 24-hour U-Bahn weekend service.Johannes Kurz, head of the federal ÖVP’s JVP youth organisation accused the capital’s SPÖ of “flushing seven million Euros of tax payers’ money down the toilet”. Kurz was referring to the around 6.7 million Euros city officials declared the referendum would cost. Kurz claimed various polls have shown that Vienna residents would back a 24-hour underground service on weekends.Vienna public transport agency Wiener Linien meanwhile said they would wait for the referendum’s final results which will be announced on 24 February. A spokesman for the firm however revealed a change in the U-Bahn’s weekend service schedule would take less than half a year.The referendum also showed vast support for the introduction of a “dog keepers’ licence” for people with breeds considered dangerous (89.21 per cent), a reintroduction of janitors at public housing estates in the city (82.39 per cent) and a city-wide offering of full-time primary and secondary modern schools.A majority of 75.1 per cent of Vienna residents participating in the referendum however opposed the introduction of a city road toll.