ÖBB, or Österreichische Bundesbahnen, are the national railway operator of Austria. Though founded in 1923, they today form some of Europe's most advanced and wide-spread passenger services including their flagship Railjet and Nightjet services that travel into a number of bordering nations. We sat down with ÖBB spokesperson Bernhard Rieder to discuss their operations, the benefits of Railjet and Nightjet trains and how Europe is encouraging safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Feature image) Railjet - © ÖBB/Christian Auerweck
"Hi Bernhard - lets kick off with who ÖBB are, what trains you run and where?"
ÖBB is the leading rail operator in Austria. We have three branches: Infrastructure, freight and passenger services. We'll be focusing a little more on passenger services - in this sector we are the biggest operator in Austria. We are a state-owned company historically but now, in a much more economic environment, with other operators as well, we have an open market in Austria. With some other companies operating in the business but nevertheless we are still by far the biggest operator.
In passenger services we have three areas where we are focussing. Most of our passengers we have on commuting services and domestic services where we are focussing on the big cities as well as offering all the services in a rural area. And then we have two long distance businesses, one is technically day business where we operate around 300 trains, while more than 200 are international. Due to the situation in Austria, we have many neighbours and we are running a lot of through trains, starting in Budapest, crossing Austria and going to Munich. We have trains coming down from the Czech Republic to the south of Austria. We operate international trains through to Italy and through all our neighbours we have a very strong connection to Germany. In addition, we have a second segment internationally where we are the leading company in Europe in the night train business. We operate the brand Nightjet which was introduced ourselves in 2016 and are by far the leading night train operator in Europe. Railjet - © ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger
"Excellent! So you've spoken a little about Nightjet but you also have Railjet - what is Railjet and how do they compare?"
Railjet is basically our prime product for day travelling. We are operating at the moment 60 trains on various lines internationally and nationally. For example, most of the Railjet trains run internationally and we have a frequent service from Budapest to Munich, from Prague to Graz, to Italy eg. from Vienna to Venice, so this is our prime product for day business. We offer three classes on these trains, we have classic economic '2nd' class, then we have 1st class and a small area for our so-called business class which is a level higher where passengers can get a higher level of service. What's important to remember if you're travelling with Railjet is that each train has an onboard restaurant and with first class and business class you get a meal and refreshments served at your seat like on aircraft. The maximum speed of these trains is 230 kph (approx 142 mph) and we have some lines in Austria where we can run these speeds but we can also go on some conventional lines so when we are crossing some areas where the network is not that good or well established we can also in the meantime run on normal networks. But in general, we run this train at 230kph. It is the backbone for long distance travelling in Europe.
What is quite interesting is that ÖBB is running 60 Railjets and the Czech Railways - České dráhy - from the Czech Republic have also ordered 6 trains in a similar configuration also running as Railjet. They run them in a different colour, our trains are red, theirs are blue, but in general we are working with them very closely and on some lines we are doing these services together, for example to Berlin via Prague to Vienna and together they offer the same quality product as ÖBB do with the same brand Railjet. Railjet - © ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger
"You've spoken about all the different countries you go to - who uses these services? Are they good for commuters as an alternative to road, are they good for business or maybe tourism?"
Railjets are the backbone for the main lines. We see different kinds of travellers. We serve a lot of business travellers - for some destinations out of Vienna it makes no sense to take a flight. Vienna - Munich, Vienna - Prague, Vienna - Budapest, it ridiculous to take a flight, you're much quicker by train when you compare the times with going to the airport, through security and in and out of the city centres. Cars take much, much longer and for many destinations out of central Europe, the Railjet is the quickest possibility to go from one big city to the next and is therefore very popular with business travellers. Vienna - Munich and Vienna - Innsbruck are always very busy with business travellers. Nevertheless we are also serving really interesting tourist destinations like Venice, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg so these trains are also full with tourists. Nowadays this tends to be European tourists, two years ago before we started with Coronavirus it was also a backbone service for European, American and Asian travellers through Europe. At the moment we are missing them but we will see when they come back!
"That's really interesting - I've been to some of those places and used ÖBB services in Vienna myself so it's obvious that they benefit from international tourism - not so much now but certainly before Coronavirus."
Yes, it is true that we're missing the North Americans, Latin Americans and Asians but Europeans are travelling again! And we'll talk more I'm sure about Nightjet's comeback strategy for after Coronavirus.
You can read the second part of the interview here, where Bernhard discusses the benefits of the Nightjet service during the current COVID climate and the importance of the Open Up To Europe campaign.
To find out more about ÖBB and the Railjet / Nightjet services, visit https://www.oebb.at/en/ and to find out more about the Open Up To Europe campaign, see https://etc-corporate.org/campaign/openuptoeurope/
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