In cooperation with Deutsche Bahn AG, the Austrian Federal Railways are further expanding long-distance transport between Austria and Germany. For example, from December 2023 there will be an additional Intercity Express connection between Berlin and Nuremberg via Vienna. In the future, there will also be another daily direct connection – without changing trains – to Hamburg-Altona.
December 10, 2023 is the annual big timetable change in European rail traffic. The Austrian Federal Railways believe that traffic between Austria and Germany is in very high demand. This should not necessarily be due to supposed "climate protection", but also to the fact that the Lufthansa Group holds a monopoly on many routes between the two countries and, for some time, due to the sometimes enormously high flight ticket prices, which do not include luggage, snacks and drinks, in is subject to criticism.
Bahn benefits from expensive air tickets and the climate ticket
Obviously, travelers are looking for alternatives and do not always opt for their own car, but also for public transport such as trains and long-distance buses. In the Alpine republic, the climate ticket should also make its contribution, as its holders do not have to pay any extra costs up to the railway state border. The only real long-distance buses on which the network card is valid are the intercity buses between Graz and Klagenfurt. However, services from Flixbus and other private providers, including the Vienna Airport Lines operated by the state-owned Postbus AG, are not included.
In collaboration with Deutsche Bahn AG, ÖBB will in future also offer a daily Intercity Express connection from Berlin via Frankfurt and Stuttgart to Innsbruck. Furthermore, one wants to significantly expand the traffic between Munich and Salzburg. An hourly service is to be offered between 6:00 a.m. and 21:00 p.m. On this route you are in competition with the private Westbahn (long-distance trains) and the Bayerische Oberlandbahn (regional trains). The German 49-euro ticket is valid for the latter, as it is a public transport train.
ÖBB and DB also want to better connect the cities of Munich and Innsbruck. Between 6:40 a.m. and 21:40 p.m., long-distance trains are to run every two hours. In the direction of Klagenfurt, ICE 4 trains will also run selectively on the Frankfurt-Munich-Salzburg-Klagenfurt route. From April 2024, the latest ÖBB Railjets from Stadler will be used in the Italian traffic, which starts in Munich. These are very similar to the Westbahn models.
ÖBB seeks competition with European Sleeper
The night trains promoted and highly subsidized by Austria's Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) are also to be expanded. From December 2023 there will be a nightjet connection from Vienna and Berlin to Brussels and Paris. Initially, three rounds per week will be offered and then gradually increased to daily service by autumn 2024. Between Berlin and Brussels they are apparently looking for competition with the private provider European Sleeper. The night trains from Germany are operated by the Austrian Federal Railways, as Deutsche Bahn AG withdrew from this segment a few years ago.
ÖBB is now confirming that the new-build wagons that have been announced for a long time and will operate under the Nightjet brand will be put on the rails. From Austria, these are initially used in Italy traffic and from Germany between Hamburg and Vienna as well as the Hanseatic city and Innsbruck. Further connections are then to be gradually converted to the new rolling stock.
However, the aging wagons will not be put into the scrap press, but it is planned to renovate them and bring them up to date. Otherwise, the ÖBB would not be able to cover the demand, because you have to wait longer for new buildings and there is also the problem of complicated national approvals. The latter does not apply if the set already has a valid approval, because then only the conversions (modernizations) have to be approved.