In the home straight

Posted: 2 July 2014 | | No comments yet

Although Vienna’s Central Station has not yet gone into operation, the first changes attributable to it are already becoming apparent…

Although Vienna’s Central Station has not yet gone into operation, the first changes attributable to it are already becoming apparent. About a modern infrastructure and how the future is already having an impact on the present.

Up until now, people in Vienna have regarded the new Central Station primarily as just another impressive building: the beautiful helm roof, the complex structural statics, the adjacent neighbourhood (Sonnwend district) with the seven hectare Helmut Zilk Park currently taking shape there. Work on this major infrastructure project, the epicentre of which is the railway station, is gradually entering the home straight, and even now, months before its final commissioning for mainline transport, the impact which this piece of “mobility real estate” will make on public transport is already becoming apparent.

Changing requirements

At the time of the Hapsburg empire, Vienna was the centre of the world for the railway authorities. Anyone arriving in Vienna had reached the end of his journey. Period. Over and out. The necessity of changing trains in order to continue one’s journey was considered completely irrelevant for planning purposes. Today’s world is a very different one, and even if Vienna is still the centre of the world, at least for the Viennese, and certainly for many Vienna enthusiasts, the requirements for the operators of mobility services have changed profoundly. This was one of the decisive reasons for constructing Vienna’s new Central Station. At the same time, however, the (imminent) commissioning of the new station also introduces new possibilities and poses new challenges for operators.

Jet railing

One of these possibilities is a direct train service to Vienna International Airport scheduled to commence at the end of the year. Here, too, this could never have been achieved with just a simple decision. In order to reach the Central Station so much faster from the West, it was necessary to construct the Vienna Woods and Lainz tunnels, which together are almost 30 kilometres long. Then there were “only” 2.1 kilometres of track missing between the Central Station and Schwechat airport. The positive effect of this immense effort is reflected in a time saving of 35 minutes from Linz, for example. Passengers travelling by train from Linz Central Station can now reach Vienna International Airport in less than two hours without having to change trains – and all that for 20 just euros. This will bring more passengers to the airport, giving them a much more enjoyable trip, first by train and then by plane. How’s that for modern mobility!

Important date

The 14th of December will be an important date for international rail traffic. This is the date on which many European countries will be adjusting their timetables – and on which the Vienna Central Station starts operating trains. Whereas the station is only served by the metropolitan railway at the moment, international rail traffic will commence with effect from 14 December. Not completely, though, as the West Railway Station will be come a purely regional station when the new station becomes fully operational. However, this will only happen a year later, in December 2015, due to the construction work on the track itself that is still necessary. Nevertheless, passengers will still notice two major improvements this year.

Complete enjoyment

Passengers who were – or still are – obliged to change from one Vienna railway station to another with lots of luggage will appreciate the new direct train services, between Prague and Graz, for example, or the regional service from St. Pölten to Wiener Neustadt, and of course the possibility of changing trains directly in the new Central Station itself. But all the other passengers will also be delighted by the huge time savings – 38 minutes on the journey between Vienna and Prague, for instance. Trains to and from the North, the East and the South will feel the full benefits of these innovations at the end of this year, whereas the West will be completely connected to the Central Station in December 2015.

Signs of things to come

The consequence of both these developments will be that Vienna Central Station will pose serious competition for short-haul flights, which only make very limited sense in every respect anyway. Austrian Railways anticipates a significant increase in the volume of passengers, and is therefore thinking aloud about enlarging its fleet of Railjets. Whereas there are currently 51 such trains in service, this number could be increased to 60. The construction of the Central Station, the modernization of the tracks, the new direct train services, the time savings. There are already signs of these things to come, even six months before the tape-cutting ceremony takes place to the clinking of champagne glasses beneath the silver helm roof. To be precise, in figures and in service improvements. We look forward to further developments. And we look forward to Vienna Central Station.