Of Claudia Hase | 2:33 p.m. 08 Apr 2022
Hans-Peter Haselsteiner comes this Friday morning with a large, black suitcase. fun or serious? When it comes to Westbahn public events, the founder is always happy to be on board himself. In a brilliant mood, he fights against the noise of the loudspeaker announcements on the platform at Vienna’s Westbahnhof on Friday morning: “If, like me, you want to go to the airport in Munich with a heavy suitcase, then either choose my option, this is it, it’s me in less than three and a quarter hours in Munich and get to the airport with the express train without having to walk. Or, if you try that with any other mode of transport, you’ll think of me.”
In fact, the Westbahn has managed a certain coup with the stop at Munich Ostbahnhof. Changing to the express train to the airport is considered “simple” due to the manageability of the small Ostbahnhof. With a current travel time of 3:47 hours – from June it will be 3:43 – the company now sees itself as the best alternative to short-haul flights. Eight new double-deck trains are used in each direction. “We’ve been working towards this day for a long time,” says Westbahn Managing Director Thomas Posch. “Our connections set new standards.” Anyone who gets on to the Upper Austrian industrial district has about half an hour less travel time than with the ÖBB.
Haselsteiner uses the opportunity to announce further plans for the western line: “We are called Westbahn and we want to go as far west as possible”. Next destination is Innsbruck. In the “most optimistic autumn” this will happen at the end of 2023 with the timetable change. The actual start of the four new train sets that have already been purchased still depends on an extensive approval process.
With the introduction of the climate ticket in autumn, which is also valid on the Westbahn, Haselsteiner sees a certain equality for the company compared to the “highly subsidized” ÖBB for the first time. Because it also applies to the Westbahn, if you have one, you can travel in comfort class 2plus at no extra charge.
“We still have room for improvement”
The Westbahn is doing better economically than it was a few years ago. “But we still have room for improvement,” said Haselsteiner. During the Corona period, the trains were empty, and now they want to get closer to the excellent year 2019. At that time, the company was just about to break into the black. Haselsteiner sums it up like this: “She doesn’t worry anymore, she doesn’t give much joy yet.”
The cheapest tickets (online early bird) are available from 23.99 euros, from 60-year-olds pay 39.99 euros Monday to Friday, the ÖBB Vorteilscard also brings advantages on the Westbahn, the ticket then costs 54.90 euros. The normal price ticket (one way) costs 79.90 euros. If you have a climate ticket, you pay a surcharge of 14.90 euros for the route to Munich.
Haselsteiner expects that driving a car will become so massively more expensive that public transport activity should become more attractive. It is depressing that the power to consume is probably falling. Here he makes no secret of a certain anger: “As soon as we leave the pandemic behind us a little bit, this shitty war comes.”
And then he goes on to say that he is actually traveling and his suitcase is full because he is going to a piano concert at the Tyrolean Festival in Erl, sponsored by the Strabag construction company, one weekend – without going via Munich Airport, by the way. There, the Strabag founder and main owner, Haselsteiner, is the festival president. For legal reasons, Haselsteiner does not want to give a peep about the tug-of-war over the share of the second largest shareholder, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.