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WESTbahn shakes up Austrian market

Posted: 1 August 2013 | Erich Forster, CEO, WESTbahn Management GmbH | No comments yet

WESTbahn Management GmbH is a private railway company that launched operations in December 2011 offering passenger services between Vienna, Salzburg and Freilassing. We are the first private long-distance railway company in Austria, offering almost hourly intervals. Due to a top speed of 200km/h, the journey time of WESTbahn trains from Vienna to Salzburg is just 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Stadler Rail AG was commissioned to manufacture our trains – the spec was to focus on functional technology, lightweight materials and a service-friendly design that would keep energy and maintenance costs low, with an overall objective to design trains that focused on our customers and their needs. It was therefore important that values are reminiscent of the WESTbahn brand: comfortable, customer-friendly and efficient. This is the reason why we also commissioned Spirit Design – Innovation and Brand GmbH – a creative company for innovations and brand, to actually design the trains.

Each WESTbahn wagon has its own steward or stewardess who guarantees optimal customer service as well as safety for the customer. Barrierfree entrances allow parents with infants and buggies or people with reduced mobility easy access to the trains. We always rank customer satisfaction first. Another benefit is that the toilets are gender-specifically separated and available in each wagon. It was important that the customer perceives all of these advantages through an individual design.

WESTbahn Management GmbH is a private railway company that launched operations in December 2011 offering passenger services between Vienna, Salzburg and Freilassing. We are the first private long-distance railway company in Austria, offering almost hourly intervals. Due to a top speed of 200km/h, the journey time of WESTbahn trains from Vienna to Salzburg is just 2 hours and 30 minutes.Stadler Rail AG was commissioned to manufacture our trains – the spec was to focus on functional technology, lightweight materials and a service-friendly design that would keep energy and maintenance costs low, with an overall objective to design trains that focused on our customers and their needs. It was therefore important that values are reminiscent of the WESTbahn brand: comfortable, customer-friendly and efficient. This is the reason why we also commissioned Spirit Design – Innovation and Brand GmbH – a creative company for innovations and brand, to actually design the trains.Each WESTbahn wagon has its own steward or stewardess who guarantees optimal customer service as well as safety for the customer. Barrierfree entrances allow parents with infants and buggies or people with reduced mobility easy access to the trains. We always rank customer satisfaction first. Another benefit is that the toilets are gender-specifically separated and available in each wagon. It was important that the customer perceives all of these advantages through an individual design.

WESTbahn Management GmbH is a private railway company that launched operations in December 2011 offering passenger services between Vienna, Salzburg and Freilassing. We are the first private long-distance railway company in Austria, offering almost hourly intervals. Due to a top speed of 200km/h, the journey time of WESTbahn trains from Vienna to Salzburg is just 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Stadler Rail AG was commissioned to manufacture our trains – the spec was to focus on functional technology, lightweight materials and a service-friendly design that would keep energy and maintenance costs low, with an overall objective to design trains that focused on our customers and their needs. It was therefore important that values are reminiscent of the WESTbahn brand: comfortable, customer-friendly and efficient. This is the reason why we also commissioned Spirit Design – Innovation and Brand GmbH – a creative company for innovations and brand, to actually design the trains.

Each WESTbahn wagon has its own steward or stewardess who guarantees optimal customer service as well as safety for the customer. Barrierfree entrances allow parents with infants and buggies or people with reduced mobility easy access to the trains. We always rank customer satisfaction first. Another benefit is that the toilets are gender-specifically separated and available in each wagon. It was important that the customer perceives all of these advantages through an individual design.

WESTbahn operates seven trains, each consisting of six double-deck wagons and 501 seats without separation in classes. Based on the design of airlines, every seat includes a large folding table that provides, among other things, sufficient space for a laptop. An electricity socket and plenty of legroom is available for each passenger, plus free Wi-Fi guarantees continuous internet access.

For passengers who prefer travelling more luxuriously, WESTbahn offers WESTbahn PLUS – for a small extra charge these passengers experience even more legroom, an empty seat next to them, a free hot drink, a free daily newspaper, personal service and discounts on car rental rates. This offer is comparable to an airline’s business class service and is tailored for business travellers who need extra space to work.

With our friendly stewards in each wagon, four WESTcafes per train, on-board ticket sales and ergonomic leather seats for first-class comfort throughout the train, WESTbahn stands for unprecedented and innovative service and quality in the Austrian long-distance passenger rail market. Top service and quality are provided for every customer and WESTbahn is famous for its customer-friendly price policy.

The results from a recent survey among rail customers which was conducted by University Professor Dr. Peter Filzmaier in February 2013, confirmed that WESTbahn has evolved into an integral part of the Austrian railway market due to the outstanding customer ratings achieved: 64% rate the WESTbahn offer as very good. The qualitative study of the Institute of Strategic Analysis (ISA) shows that WESTbahn is seen as extremely attractive in terms of quality (21%) and price-performance (53%). Primarily, the friendly WESTbahn crew members are highly appreciated. In addition, the possibility to purchase tickets on-board, as well as modern technology features, is highly rated. This results in unprecedented levels of satisfaction in the Austrian railway sector. These results demonstrate that the first step of railway liberalisation in Austria has flourished. That’s why it is important to press ahead with the liberalisation of the railway market. Therefore, the next logical step is the fourth railway package, presented by the European Commission in order to achieve further quality improvements for customers and cost savings for the public purse.

Competitive markets have a positive impact on technology, service and price and lost workplaces are replaced by new and more productive jobs. Thus, there is a need for fair competition that can be achieved with an equal opportunity in vehicle financing, extension of the regulator’s rights and a break of composite structures that prevent the liberalisation.

So far in 2013, WESTbahn reports a steady increase in passenger numbers, already counting approximately 60% more passengers than last year. This is a great success, considering the difficulties that an open access provider could come across during the start of operations. Typical market barriers from the beginning include high fees for infrastructure or no integration in timetable-information-systems, which leads to a lack of interchanges with traffic of the incumbent. It is also difficult getting ideal places for advertising and information as well as train paths, because of the predominant position of the incumbent.

As previously mentioned, customer satisfaction is our top priority. WESTbahn is a private company that offers reasonable ticket prices, friendliness and punctuality, making travelling with WESTbahn an attractive alterna – tive to the private car. That’s the reason why WESTbahn is expected to achieve operating breakeven this year.

 

Biography

Since May 2012, Erich Forster has been the CEO of WESTbahn Management GmbH. Prior to this position he was the CCO from April 2011. Between 1975 and 2011, Erich worked at Österreichische Bundesbahnen, finishing his career there as Managing Director of the Long Distance Traffic division. Erich was awarded a PhD in Psychology from the University of Vienna.

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