Until the coronavirus pandemic, the Vienna - Salzburg service was operated commercially by both Westbahn and ÖBB without government subsidy and both operators have already cut frequency on the route in the face of a huge drop in demand.

However, the Austrian government says it wants to maintain public transport by rail as a basic service and to strengthen it as the backbone of mobility despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time that Westbahn, which is a private open-access operator, and state-owned ÖBB have been treated equally by the government.

“This is a welcome and unbureaucratic measure taken in the light of the coronavirus crisis in order to secure traffic on an otherwise economically viable route,” Westbahn says. “The government's foresight in maintaining public transport in this difficult phase of the coronavirus crisis deserves special praise.”

The new timetable starts on April 20 and will provisionally run for the next three months.

Westbahn and ÖBB will each operate a train between Vienna, Linz and Salzburg every two hours, alternating between each operator. Westbahn trains will run from Vienna West via Meidling instead of Hütteldorf, while ÖBB trains will serve Vienna Main Station. Westbahn trains will also make additional stops in Tullnerfeld, St Valentin and Neumarkt-Köstendorf to match the ÖBB service. ÖBB is also operating an hourly limited-stop service on the route.

For the first time standard tickets will be interchangeable between Westbahn and ÖBB. Promotional fares will not be sold during the PSO contract because the focus is on providing a service for essential journeys.