INTER-REGIONAL TRAIN AND BUS SERVICES IN AUSTRIA

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Most European countries own an extensive railway system, so does Austria. The network consists of different types of railway lines such as main railway lines, secondary routes, narrow-gauge routes and of course high-speed railway lines which have emerged in the last two decades and complement the exisiting main routes where demand is high. Some secondary routes were closed during the recent years, more closures of secondary lines will follow as demand decreased during the last decades as a result of motorization.

On the positive side quality of train services significantly improved between Vienna and Salzburg as trains now can accelerate to 200 kph, sectorally even to 230 kph. The recent opening of the Vienna-St. Pölten high-speed railway line featuring a new tunnel through the Vienna Woods lead to significantly lower travel times between Vienna and Linz/Salzburg.  

The most important railway lines in Austria are:

Vienna - Linz - Wels - Salzburg - Innsbruck - Feldkirch - Bregenz (Western Line)
Vienna - Bruck an der Mur - Graz (Southern Line to Graz)
Vienna - Bruck an der Mur- Klagenfurt-Villach (Southern Line to Klagenfurt and Villach)

+ some international routes (see article about international travel)

 

Domestic bus travel is rather new and now possible with WESTBUS (see more below) but only between the important cities. Moreover, there are many bus lines in the countryside (see article about traveling in a state)

 

TRAIN OPERATORS in AUSTRIA

 

ÖBB  (www.oebb.at/en)

 


In many European countries there has always been one major (state-owned) railway operator who was in charge of (almost) all train services. In Austria there is Austrian Federal Railways ("Österreichische Bundesbahnen") ÖBB, a very large company that is responsible for all railway-related services (construction, engineering, train stations, passenger trains, freight train etc.). ÖBB operates international local trains (in co-operation with other national operators), international long-distance trains (jointly with foreign operator), domestic long-distance trains, regional trains, local trains, nostalgic trains and freight trains (which is not relevant, just for your info). Since the European Commission decided (ultimately on behalf of the member countries) to open the railway market to private companies in order to induce some competition, it is now possible for private entities to operate trains in Austria using the exisiting train network. And this deregulation already brought Austria a new, privately-operated railway operator named WESTBAHN who runs trains between Vienna and Salzburg (in competition to ÖBB now). More info on WESTBAHN is given below.

ÖBB offers the following train categories:

RAILJET (RJ): This train is the newest one of ÖBB and is seen as the "flagship" of ÖBB. These trains feature Economy Class, First Class and Business Class compartments. Trains runs on major routes such as.....

INTER-CITY (IC): Inter-City connections are regular domestic (and sometimes international) trains which stop more often than the RailJet or other "superior" trains. ÖBB sometimes also names their IC trains "ÖBB IC" in order to

EURO CITY (EC): Euro-CIty trains are international trains, on some routes they are gradually replaced by other train types such as RailJet or ICE.

INTER-CITY-EXPRESS (ICE): ICE trains are German high-speed trains which are also used on some international routes. ICE also stands for a high(er) quality. The fact that a high-speed train is used on a route does not mean that it can always make use of its technical capabilities. The maximum speed depends on some factors such as radii of the curves, train control system and others.

REGIONAL EXPRESS TRAINS (REX): REX trains usually operate within a state/province or between a city and smaller towns in the countryside

REGIONAL TRAINS (R): R-trains stop more often than REX trains, usually at all stops (except if there is a S-Bahn)

SCHNELLBAHN (S): S-Bahn trains run in urban areas and link the city with adjacent counties. They usually call at all stations and stops along a route, hence it is the slowest category. 


WESTBAHN (www.westbahn.at/en)

 

Westbahn is a new railway operator (as mentioned above) providing train services for passengers between the City of Vienna and the CIty of Salzburg. WESTBAHN emerged as a result of the deregulation of the railway market. They operate double-decker trains with low-floor entrances, offer free WiFi aboard, one train attendant for each car who also brings food and beverages to your seat (which you need to pay for of course). WESTBAHN offers one train each hour but check their timetable before you intend to travel with them. They exclusively offer trains between Vienna and Salzburg including some intermediate stops.

Vienna - St. Pölten - Amstetten - Linz - Wels - Attnang_Puchheim - Salzburg - Freilassing

 

BUS OPERATORS in AUSTRIA

 

WESTBUS (www.westbus.at/en)

 

WESTBUS is a new bus operator who belongs to Westbahn. WESTBUS offers connections between:

Vienna-Klagenfurt
Vienna-Graz (transfer required)
Linz-Graz
Linz-Klagenfurt (transfer required)

+ some international routes (see article about international travel)

  

FARES AND TICKETS

 

ÖBB (www.oebb.at/en) offers quite a few different fares and tickets. The standard fare a train ticket is subject to is distance-based, the farther you travel the lower the price per distance unit gets. Furthermore, ÖBB offers discounted tickets named "Sparschiene" which need to be booked in advance and significantly lower the price. Logically, they come with restrictions in exchange for the lower price. Trips done with standard fare tickets - if covering more than 100km (oneway distance) - may be interrupted at intermediate stops (as often as desired) as long as someone does not start backtracking. This means that you may stop in Salzburg if you have bought, for instance, a ticket covering Vienna-Innsbruck. It is not necessary to inform the train attendant. Be aware that domestic ÖBB train tickets covering more than 100km are only valid for 6 days. Any trip must be completed on the final day of the validity. This rule may have changed in the meantime, so check its validity before you decide for a stop-over. 

Here are some fare samples:

Vienna - Salzburg: Standard Fare: € 50 Special offer "Sparschiene": € 19

WESTBAHN (www.westbahn.at/en) only offers a standard fare which is approximately half of the standard fare of ÖBB. Sometimes they offer bargain fares for less frequented trains or for some target groups (e.g. seniors, students). Their standard fare tickets are fully flexible and may also be bought aboard without surcharge. Children up to the age of 6 travel free, from 6 to 14 they only pay 1€ for all trips. Here are some fare samples:

Vienna - Salzburg: € 25

WESTBUS only offers standard fare tickets which should be bought in advance through their website.

Here are some fare samples:

Vienna - Klagenfurt: 22€

Vienna - Graz: 22€

Linz - Graz: 22€

Linz - Klagenfurt: 22€

+ some international routes (see article about international travel)

 

RESERVATIONS

 

Reservations for (domestic) long-distance trains are neither manadatory nor necessary at most times. But there are some time slots when a reservation can be at least useful or even necessary. Trains tend to be well-occupied on Friday afternoons (expecially out of Vienna) as well as on Sunday afternoons/evenings. On some dates trains get really full which are the days prior to Christmas, Fridays and Saturdays prior to school holidays (mid-term, Easter, summer holidays). If someone intends traveling on such a busy day, then a seat reservation should be taken into consideration. Both, ÖBB and WESTBAHN, offer seat reservation for a small fee. 

Reservations are necessary for passengers using wheelchairs or those who want to transport a bicycle.

If you buy a ticket for a bus of WESTBUS, then the reservation is included.