Price hike claims as night-time U-Bahn counts 4mn passengers

More than 40,000 people are using Vienna’s 24-hour U-Bahn service, it was announced today (Fri).Public transport agency Wiener Linien said it registered around 45,000 underground passengers a night at weekends and nights before public holidays. The company introduced a 15-minute interval service last September after 54 per cent of the 277,000 residents of the city participating in a referendum in February 2010 spoke out in favour of such a reform.The average number of night-time passengers tripled since the expanded service was introduced, according to Wiener Linien. A record 145,000 people rode on U-Bahn trains on New Year’s Eve, the firm said, adding that around four million passengers had taken advantage of the 24-hour service since September.The new around the clock U-Bahn operation on Fridays and Saturdays costs the debt-stricken capital city – which holds shares in Wiener Linien and monitors the firm’s operations – around 5.1 million Euros a year. Costs for the “Nightline” bus service – which was reduced when the 24-hour U-Bahn service was introduced – amount to 5.6 million Euros.Taxi drivers expressed fears of dwindling earnings at weekends due to the increased underground activity.Newspapers are currently speculating over whether the city government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens will implement higher public transport ticket prices. Some reports have it that such a reform could come into effect as early as this autumn. The parties have confirmed that talks are ongoing, but refused to reveal any conclusions.The Greens campaigned ahead of last year’s election in favour of drastic price reductions to make using buses, trams and underground trains an even more attractive alternative for motorists in times of soaring fuel prices. However, the coalition is tipped to raise some rates to provide cut-price deals to people who earn less.The price for a single ticket could rise by 70 Eurocents to 2.50 Euros, it has been claimed. The Greens suggested ahead of the most recent city parliament ballot that the price for this kind of ticket should be reduced to one Euro. The party also wanted Wiener Linien to offer annual passes for 100 Euros to everyone. This kind of ticket currently costs 449 Euros regardless of the purchaser’s income.SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl recently said some of the previously made suggestions and current demands by the coalition partner of his party were “unrealistic.” He added: “Now the Greens are part of a government and have certain responsibilities.”