More passengers than ever before: “all-the-time” rail transport

Compared to 2022, there were about 33 million more passengers. So far, the pre-pandemic numbers have lagged behind, but 2019’s figure was surpassed in 2023: according to Rail Control, around 316 million passengers were carried in 2019.

The authority said the offer has been comprehensively enhanced by expanding and increasing the frequency of existing connections and introducing new connections. Demand for passenger transport is at an “all-time” high, the report says. On average, each passenger traveled 44.3 kilometers, a “record value,” the report said.

Jointly responsible for climate ticket development

According to the authority, “higher fuel prices, expanded parking space management in metropolitan areas and the introduction of climate tickets” are primarily responsible for this growth. 132.1 million passenger train kilometers were delivered on the Austrian rail network. “The decisive factor for this development is ÖBB passenger traffic and Westbahn’s newly established long-distance and night traffic connections,” the rail control said.

The number of providers in the market has also increased. “With 66 companies, more trains are authorized to operate on the ÖBB network than ever before,” the supervisory authority said. A total of 88 railway companies (infrastructure, transport companies, integrated companies) were registered last year.

ÖBB regional train

ORF/Christian Ozer

Each passenger traveled an average of 44.3 kilometers

Decline in freight traffic

Meanwhile, there was a decline in net kilometers operated (minus 5.2 percent) in rail freight. “This growth is mainly due to the difficult economic environment,” Eisenbahn-Kontrol said. In addition to low industrial production and high energy prices, there were also “road closures and staffing issues”.

Upheavals in energy markets triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine in 2022 – a sharp increase in traction current prices at the same time as significantly favorable developments in mineral oil prices – will continue and, together with high general price levels, have an impact on traction costs and thus the competitiveness of companies.

St. Boyleton main station

ORF/Christian Ozer

The expansion of the Western Railway also contributed to the increase in passengers

“Extensive infrastructure works and construction-related diversions and sometimes poor operational quality in neighboring countries (especially Germany)” influenced the planning and implementation of rail transport. According to Rail Control, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and a shortage of available rolling stock, ie locomotives and freight wagons, across Europe.

New Railway Act: A better response to bottlenecks

Meanwhile, the National Council strengthened passenger rights on Thursday evening. Improvements were made by the Consensus decision for disabled people, for example, it was also made easier to take bikes with you. Passengers are entitled to compensation not only if the train is canceled or delayed, but also if the passenger’s journey is delayed due to overcrowding. Transport Minister Leonore Küssler (Greens) said that compensation for reduced validity would be extended from annual tickets to season tickets.

An amendment to the Railways Act, approved unanimously, makes it possible to act quickly on capacity issues. For example, track closures in the German rail network from 2026 will pose challenges, Gwessler said. When capacity utilization is high due to closures, we can now act quickly and with greater targeting.

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