December 14, 2011

Westbahn starts Austrian open-access service

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WESTBAHN has become the first open-access operator to challenge Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) in Austria's domestic long-distance market, with the launch on December 11 of its Vienna - Linz - Salzburg service.

The company operates at least 11 services per day at roughly hourly intervals, with a journey time of less than three hours for the 308km trip. All tickets are sold online or on board trains.

Westbahn has consistently denied it would enter a price war with ÖBB, although it has offered 7500 €7.50 tickets just days after ÖBB put 25,000 €15 tickets on its website. CEO Mr Stefan Wehinger has accused ÖBB of using taxpayers' money to offer discounted tickets.

Around 5 million passengers are expected in the first year and Wehinger indicated last month that the company may be profitable before the end of the year. Previously the company forecast it would break even in 2014-15.

Services are operated by a fleet of seven 200km/h six-car double-deck emus supplied by Stadler, which are maintained by the manufacturer at a purpose-built depot in Linz under a five-year contract.

Westbahn is a subsidiary of Rail Holding, in which French National Railways (SNCF) has a 26% share.

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