ÖBB carried 267 million passengers in 2019, which is a new all-time high, compared with 261 million in 2018. As a result, the passenger division achieved a pre-tax profit of €100m compared with €91m the previous year.

The passenger division accounted for more than half of ÖBB’s total pre-tax profit and was the only division to report an increase in 2019. The passenger division’s profit is derived mostly from public service obligation (PSO) contracts.

Rail Cargo Austria recorded a drop in freight traffic from 113 million tonnes in 2018 to 105 million in 2019. Volume in Austria dropped from 78.6 million tonnes to 74.3 million with freight activity in most other countries decreasing as well. RCA’s share of the Austrian freight market dropped again in 2019 and is now at 68%.  

As a result, RCA achieved a pre-tax profit of just €5m compared with €24m in 2018 and an Ebit of €26.8m compared with €53.1m in 2018. Revenue remained stable at €2.3bn but was insufficient to compensate for rising costs.

ÖBB’s infrastructure division reported a pre-tax profit of €38.3m compared with €45.3m in 2018. ÖBB Infrastructure invested more than €2bn in 2019. The 130km Koralm Railway between Graz and Klagenfurt is now fully under construction, and around half of the tunnels for both the Semmering Base Tunnel and the Brenner Base Tunnel have been dug. 

ÖBB plans to invest more than €2.4bn in rail infrastructure in 2020 and the government plans to increase this by a further 5%.

Budget revision

ÖBB is at present revising its 2020 budget in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “We quickly implemented measures to stabilise the company and secured liquidity,” says ÖBB’s CEO Mr Andreas Matthä. “Nevertheless, the result will suffer in 2020, with freight transport under particular pressure. The situation in freight transport is challenging for all European railways. Nevertheless, Rail Cargo Group is one of the few freight railways in Europe that did a positive job in 2019. In the future, however, transport policy measures at the EU level will be required to ensure the sustainable protection of rail freight transport, so that competition between rail and road becomes a little bit fairer.”

Since the start of the crisis RCA freight traffic has dropped by 25-30%, while passenger traffic suffered even more with an 80% reduction in regional traffic and a 90% drop in long-distance passenger traffic.

ÖBB is negotiating revisions to its existing PSO contracts as it is operating a weekend passenger timetable even though passenger numbers do not warrant even this level of service.

State aid for RCA will not be possible as the Austrian government will only provide financial support to companies suffering from drops in revenue of at least 40% as well as the need to treat all freight operators equally under Austria competition law.