The WESTbahn way of carrying out rolling stock maintenance
As a privately-owned open access operator in Austria, WESTbahn must ensure its rolling stock asset is always operational. Erich Forster, WESTbahn’s CEO, outlines what it takes to maintain their fleet, including the four pillars of maintenance activities it adheres to.
WESTbahn has been operating express train services in Austria since 11 December 2011, providing an open access offer between Vienna and Salzburg, competing with state incumbent ÖBB on that section. We have approximately 350 employees, about 85 per cent of which are employed on-board as train drivers and crew members. Complimentary to our on‑board staff, we have an exceptional back office service of employees covering every aspect of our business.
In 2011, WESTbahn started operating from Wien Westbahnhof (this line was later called WESTgreen) with a fleet of seven six-car Stadler KISS 1 (4010) sets, containing 501 seats each. In 2014, our supervisory board decided to invest in an additional KISS 1 (4010) trainset with 526 seats, and nine four-car (4110) trainsets with 326 seats each. WESTbahn needed this new additional fleet because, in December 2017, we opened a second line (called WESTblue) from Wien Praterstern (via Hauptbahnhof and Meidling), running parallel to WESTgreen, between St. Pölten and Salzburg. In 2019 – for several reasons – we decided to sell our whole fleet to Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB) in two batches. The first batch (the nine ‘short’ KISS 2 4110 trainsets) was passed into DB ownership in December 2019, which also resulted in a reduction to an intensified hourly WESTbahn service from Wien Westbahnhof to Salzburg. We will hand over the remaining eight 4010 trainsets to DB once we can move the 15 KISS 3 trains we ordered in 2019 into service – this is expected to be in the second half of 2021. We will then own a homogeneous fleet which, in turn, will help to improve all matters of maintenance.
Our top priority is to have all trains operating 365 days a year, which might be a rather unfamiliar approach to many other companies.
We are predominantly a privately-owned company competing in open-access traffic. This, of course, means that we have to prioritise all matters that strengthen our competitiveness. Thus, our top priority is to have all trains operating 365 days a year, which might be a rather unfamiliar approach to many other companies. We cannot afford to have one of our trainsets out of action; not even set aside as a reserve. These requirements define our attitude towards maintenance and provide the respective time window for it. The four pillars we base our maintenance system upon, are: