Enhancing economic growth

Posted: 30 July 2007 | | No comments yet

Reorganisation of the ÖBB into a group with market orientated companies is the passport to successful participation in a liberalized rail transport market. Aiming to be among the best, ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is improving the quality of its existing network while intensifying the push for internationalisation to embrace the economic growth of South and South-Eastern Europe.

Reorganisation of the ÖBB into a group with market orientated companies is the passport to successful participation in a liberalized rail transport market. Aiming to be among the best, ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is improving the quality of its existing network while intensifying the push for internationalisation to embrace the economic growth of South and South-Eastern Europe.

Reorganisation of the ÖBB into a group with market orientated companies is the passport to successful participation in a liberalized rail transport market. Aiming to be among the best, ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is improving the quality of its existing network while intensifying the push for internationalisation to embrace the economic growth of South and South-Eastern Europe.

ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG was founded in 2004 at the same time as Rail Cargo Austria, ÖBB-Personenverkehr and ÖBB-Infrastruktur Bau as one of four public companies and five limited liability companies. The companies have been in operation since 1st January 2005. Peter Klugar (graduate engineer) and I, Arnold Schiefer (M.Sc.), head the largest of the group’s companies with almost 13,000 employees. The mandate of ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is to supply, operate and maintain a demand-based and safe rail infrastructure; and also undertake operation planning and shunting. In concrete terms, this means:

  • Non-discriminatory allocation of network capacity
  • Approval of rail vehicles
  • Help in obtaining transport licenses
  • Service both before, during and after a train journey
  • Support in transport planning
  • Management of trains in the rail network
  • Rail vehicle shunting
  • Inspection, servicing, fault clearing and repair of rail network

ÖBB’s rail network

ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG operates, maintains and renews a rail network of nearly 5,700km. Approximately 70% of the network is electrified and 35% is double tracked. In 2006, 93 million metric tons of cargo and 196 million passengers were transported on this network. In concrete terms, ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG services the following facilities: 11,000km track – with 7,900km electrified track, 53,200 signals, 17,000 points – with 11,000 remote controlled points, 800 signal boxes – with 200 electronic signal boxes, 6,500 bridges and viaducts, 260 tunnels and galleries, 6,000 level crossings, 1,400 railway stations and stopping places, 115 shunting stations.

Our core business is the operation and technical operation of the rail network. The network connects Austria to the European network. The challenges in supporting this network are the result of the peculiarities of Austria’s alpine geography. The dangers of mountain torrents, avalanche release areas and escarpments require specialist safety precautions.

ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG

ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG consists of the Netzzugang (Network Access) department, the business areas Netzbetrieb (Network Operations), Verschub (Shunting) and Infrastructure Service.

Five subsidiary companies support operations:

  • Network and Route Development NSE (50% / infrastructure development and Infrastructure planning
  • Rail Equipment (100% / cross-group management of road vehicles and track-bound vehicles and equipment)
  • Mungos (100% / cleaning and safety at railway stations)
  • Austrian Rail Construction and Consulting (100% / research and development)
  • Weichenwerke Wörth (30% / point setting, superstructure trade)

Department – Network Access

The aim of the Network Access department is to maximize the marketing of network capacity and increase the rail market share. The tasks of this department therefore include infrastructure marketing with sales, timetable scheduling and capacity management, while balancing construction work which affects capacity and customer agreements. Network Access operates a one stop shop to make access to the network as easy as possible. This applies to concession information and customer service both before and after a train journey.

Division – Network Operations

The Network Operations division controls and schedules train movements, organizes shunting operations and manages railway stations in the mobility chain. Operations are currently controlled from a transport management centre, five regional transport centres and 530 manned operative junctions. The focus of these divisions is on safety, operational efficiency, punctual train services, safety and cleanliness at the railway stations and passenger information.

Division – Shunting

The logical link between the beginning and end of the transport chain is the Shunting division. Shunting’s safe, economic and high quality shunting operations are making vital contribution to the success story. Shunting operations at the highest level of safety, the introduction of innovative, flexible and market orientated methods and recognized quality create customer loyalty. Shunting is the basis for rail-bound transport, a basis which in effect makes it all possible.

Division – Infrastructure Service

Technical operations and reliable facilities are the responsibility of the Infrastructure Service Division. A comprehensive maintenance service involves inspection, fault elimination, servicing, operations and responsibility for central fault management. There are four 24-hour manned regional control centres for this purpose in Austria. The Infrastructure Service division has additional responsibility for the management of natural hazards such as avalanches, mudslides and storms.


Safe, healthy, productive and motivated employees will increase the success of our company. Hence we have numerous schemes and projects aimed at improving the safety and satisfaction of our employees. The project ‘SICHER=SICHER, Zug um Zug’ (‘SURE=SAFE, train by train’) is setting standards in the safety area. The areas covered by the project are: customized difficult-situation training, action lists for construction site preparation or tools such as safety glasses, hazard analysis, requirement training, security checks, safety checks and safety information. Communication, motivation and active problem solving take priority in our ‘Unfallfreier Verschub’ (‘Accident-Free Schunting’) project. All employees contribute to improving safety by always observing safety standards and setting an example for others.

On the theme of health, we have a comprehensive and integrated programme in INFRA.vital. The aim of this project is to promote health in the workplace. The focus is on exercise, nutrition, mental health and giving up smoking. All employees can become involved via the health group. However, more than anything we aim to encourage our employees to take responsibility for their own health.

Equally important to us is education and training and for this we have our own©. The academy is orientated towards the values of ‘safety – efficiency – speed’ and covers the key operation areas of our company. Various programmes such as the management training course have been specially developed for ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG. A certifacte is issued at the end of the courses and it is our intention that we expand our employee courses in the future and improve existing offerings.

All our efforts are aimed at employee satisfaction. The employee loyalty is also the focus of our personnel strategy. We are conscious of the role of an attractive employer. Thus we recognize that a performance-related payment policy and identification of our development focuses for our employees are imperative for success.

Among the best and the safest

ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG aims to be among the best. “We want to be the safest and most efficient railway undertaking in Europe”. This is the direction my co-director Peter Kugar and I would like our company to take. There are essentially three areas of endeavour:

  • Modernisation
  • Liberalisation
  • Internationalisation

Modernising – focus on market

Whereas ÖBB is doing relatively well in cargo transport with a share of 36% (modal share), passenger transport is lagging behind at about 8%. Maximisation of marketing with a product offering in-line with market requirements is our priority. The focus is on concrete market segments and on the transport links with attractive potential. Orientation towards segment specific customer requirements and an improved cargo service quality will facilitate this goal. Likewise, access to infrastructure will continue to be improved (feeder lines, handling facilities and main tracks). In passenger transport, journey times on popular connections will be further cut and the facilities and quality of the railway stations improved further. In developing infrastructure facilities we will also be pursuing service capacity improvement particularly in high density areas.

Modernising – focus on production

The creation of operation management centres for the remote control of the entire network will increase productivity by about 90%. One operation management body concentrating on five centres will improve quality by optimizing the use of the infrastructure. Increased automation will significantly improve shunting operations and productivity. Multifunctional jobs such as shunting leader / locomotive operator will play an important role. Targeted provisions for the existing infrastructure will have a direct effect on customer satisfaction. More investment – and more importantly targeted investment – in the existing network is necessary to increase capacity. Increasing capacity categorically includes the eradication of speed restricted sections from the ÖBB network. ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is also aiming to improve the level of comfort at railway stations with continual work on safety and cleanliness, accentuation of platform edges, providing platforms with barrier-free access and electronic passenger travel information systems. Modern measurement and analysis equipment and a sophisticated technical maintenance strategy are working to increase the efficiency of the Infrastructure Service division. Maintenance and repair work is going to be easier to plan for in the future and we will be following the motto: “Potential problems need to be solved before they can occur!”


The first external railway undertakings began operating on ÖBB’s rail network in 2001. Over the following years the new railway undertakings resulted in an increase of 500% in train kilometers traveled. There are currently 24 different railway undertakings operating on the ÖBB rail network, seven international companies and four from the ÖBB group. All these companies possess the so-called access authorization granted by an independent registration office. The market share of the new railway undertakings in rail cargo transport is currently about 5% and increasing rapidly. On the Brenner route, the market share in trilateral trains is already over 30%! There has to be a change in the way train routes are allocated. Priorities in route allocation for the annual timetable are regulated by law and for an overloaded rail infrastructure give precedence to public interest services, cargo and passenger services. Habitually according priority to public interest transport has a negative effect on the efficient use of the infrastructure. ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG is therefore striving for optimization or a more flexible basis for this regulation.


Austria is at the heart of Europe and for thousands of years has been the gateway to the East. With the exception of Switzerland, all Austria’s neighbouring countries are members of the European Union. Nonetheless or maybe because of this, economic areas in south and south-west Europe are gaining increasing importance in central Europe. This positive development means a more efficient rail infrastructure is required. Particularly in view of the transfer of cargo from road to rail, ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG sees itself as performing a driving role in internationalizing European rail transport. International cargo transport is currently about 75% for ÖBB. This is additional motivation for the international endeavours of the company.

Of course other experts from ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG are also working towards a more efficient European rail infrastructure via a variety of working groups within these organisations. Results need to come in quickly and be implemented fast. The trend for international transport is towards a more quickly adaptive, demand-tailored service and cooperation arrangements within the transport market are spreading. Rail undertakings are pushing to increase the number of border-crossing trains they can run under their own responsibility. Locomotive and passenger circular connections are becoming more important as are electronic data transmission applications (online train information, tracking & tracing). Keyword: interoperability. The promotion, modernization and development of the European rail infrastructure in effect means:

  • Reduction of travel times
  • Reduction of border stops
  • Elimination of infrastructure problems on single-track stretches
  • Creation of one-stop shops

The one-stop shops are organized by RailNetEurope (RNE). The aim of this association is to promote cross-border rail transport through joint action as – ONE single European rail infrastructure provider. In a jointly operated network each partner country operates a one-stop shop. This applies to the entire operative process from planning, marketing, sales and timetabling through to the train journey itself. RailNetEurope’s members operate a network covering an astounding 230,000km.

The development of international capacity is the gateway to the future. It will be of inestimable value to be the pacesetter. Director Arnold Schiefer (M.Sc.) has been making his mark since the end of April 2007 as president of the syndicate Korridor X. Korridor X passes from Salzburg via Villach to Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Nis˘ and Skopje to Thessalonica. The task and aim of ARGE Korridor X is to promote, modernize and develop track infrastructure. There are currently 10 rail members of ARGE Korridor X, the 2001 founded future-orientated merger of central and south-east European railways.


Mastering the challenges of the future will be crucial to the success of ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG. ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG will concentrate on investment in existing network, modernisation, liberalisation and internationalisation. Our employees’ input and commitment will be pivotal in ensuring we run safe and efficient rail transport routes for a cost-effective and fast service, producing complete customer satisfaction.

About the author

Arnold Schiefer began his career working for various PR and marketing companies before switching to the Austrian Transport Ministry in 2000. In 2005, Arnold Schiefer joined ÖBB-Infrastruktur Bau AG and in 2006 he was promoted to the Management Board of ÖBB-Infrastruktur Betrieb AG. Mr. Schiefer was also the overall project manager for the ‘Neuer Hauptbahnhof Wien’ (‘The New Vienna Main Railway Station’) and was on the supervisory board of the Brennerbasistunnel AG and ASFINAG. Mr. Schiefer has been Chairman of the Board of Management of ARGE Korridor X since April 2007.

Related organisations


Related regions