A €2bn redevelopment project in Wien will give the city a showpiece station with 10 through tracks replacing the Ostbahnhof and Südbahnhof termini. Target date for completion is 2013

Dr Karl-Johann Hartig
ÖBB Project Director, Wien Central Station

WORK has begun on a new central station to serve the Austrian capital. After years of debate and planning, this huge €2bn project is on course for completion in 2013 as part of a major redevelopment scheme that will change the shape of the city's rail network.

Across Europe, a wave of new stations with striking modern architecture is taking the place of gloomy buildings and cavernous halls. Attracting business and leisure clientele, they have become destinations in their own right — providing an introduction to travel on today's modern railway. This is what is happening in Wien, where the Central Station and the Railjet fleet (p713) will sweep away the old image of rail travel.

The station project is being carried out in several stages. Work began on June 12 when local officials and dignitaries gathered for a ceremony to mark the start of reconstruction of Südtiroler Platz S-Bahn station under the first phase. Present at the event were Mayor of Wien Michael Häupl, Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation & Technology Werner Faymann, Austrian Federal Railways Managing Director Martin Huber and Péter Balázs, EU Co-ordinator for TEN Corridor 17.

Currently served by four S-Bahn routes, Südtiroler Platz provides interchange to U-Bahn Line U1. It lies adjacent to the Südbahnhof and Ostbahnhof which are operated as two separate termini for main line trains. These will be replaced by a new through station, forming the centrepiece of a massive urban redevelopment project bounded by four streets: Wiedner Gürtel, Arsenalstraße, Gudrunstraße and Sonnwendgasse (Fig 1).

Located on three TEN corridors (Paris - Bratislava, Athens - Dresden and Gdansk - Venezia), Wien Central will be a major hub for long-distance trains criss-crossing Europe from east to west and north to south. It will also form an important interchange for the city's extensive public transport network. Offices, a hotel, new housing and a shopping centre will be built around the station, revitalising a whole district to form a major gateway for visitors to the capital.

City landmarks

Since the 19th century the Südbahnhof, Ostbahnhof and the more distant Westbahnhof have been landmarks in the Wien cityscape. All three have been altered over time to reflect changes in travel habits and patterns, but they have outlived their usefulness in their present form.

Central Station will replace both the Südbahnhof and Ostbahnhof, but the Westbahnhof will be retained for regional services. However, these trains will have to use a temporary station during a three-year closure for redevelopment. The main building at Westbahnhof is a protected historic structure, so it must remain intact, but new commercial premises and shops will be added.

The effects of the Central Station project will be felt far beyond the city, with the entire region gaining economic benefits and shorter journey times. Trains using the Ostbahn towards Bratislava and those routed over the Pottendorf line from Südbahnhof to Meidling and Wiener Neustadt will be diverted into the new station, as will S-Bahn service S80. All long-distance trains, including those now terminating at Westbahnhof, will serve the new station, and many new through journeys will become possible. For example, direct trains will run from Linz to Wien Schwechat Airport, with journey time halved from more than 2 h 30 min to 1 h 15 min. Bratislava will be just 45 min from the city centre, and trains will run to many other destinations in central and eastern Europe.

In terms of local public transport, the station will offer interchange to regional trains, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, tram and bus services. There will be 1 000 bicycle spaces, a taxi rank, a kiss-and-ride area and an underground car park for 600 vehicles.

The €44m rebuilding of the S-Bahn station at Südtiroler Platz includes extending the platforms to a length of 210 m and construction of a passageway that will lead directly into the northern part of Central Station. Step-free access will be provided to both the S-Bahn and U-Bahn.

Work is scheduled to start on the main station structure in 2009, by which time an environmental impact study will have been completed — the formal process for this study will begin next month.

Trains will use five island platforms with 10 faces beneath a strikingly-designed glass-metal roof that will provide excellent protection from the weather. There will be no ticket barriers so that passengers will be able to move easily around the station.

Around 100 km of new track will be laid, including about 300 sets of points. The new layout will include a flyover to the west and a dive-under to the east, reducing conflicting movements.

Commercial development

The first part of the 59 ha property redevelopment scheme will get underway in 2009, with completion planned for 2012. The space below the present platforms at Ostbahnhof and the main concourse area will be replaced by an underground car park and a 20 000 m² shopping centre with food, retail outlets and other services. The existing Südbahnhof and the car park on the Wiedner Gürtel will be demolished.

When completed, the new development zone will offer 550 000 m² of office space, together with 5 500 apartments for 13 000 people who will have access to an 8 ha park, a kindergarten and two schools. Altogether, around 20 000 people will work here, less than 2·5 km from St Stephan's cathedral in the heart of the city.

Today the railway acts as a barrier between different parts of the city, but this will change when the station is finished. New streets and walkways will connect the various sectors of the redevelopment with the surrounding area.

Maintenance centralised

In parallel with the station project, ÖBB is taking the opportunity to reorganise its train maintenance activities in Wien. Currently scattered across seven locations, these will be brought together into a single complex on the site of the former Matzleinsdorf freight terminal to the west of the new station. This €109m project is also due to be be completed by 2009.

Total cost of the whole package amounts to more than €2bn. Of this, €886m is being invested in new railway infrastructure, most of which is being found from ÖBB's own budget. Other contributions will come from private investors, the city of Wien, and the European Union's TEN funds. ÖBB is paying for the shopping centre and the Matzleinsdorf maintenance facility. The city is contributing €100m towards technical and social costs.

  • Artist's impression of the completed Wien Central Station with offices and apartment buildings
  • Fig 1. Wien Central Station is the centrepiece of a huge redevelopment on the site of the present Ostbahnhof and Südbahnhof. Shops, offices and apartments will be built within the area bounded by Arsenalstraße, Gudrunstraße, Wiedner Gürtel and Sonnwendgasse. To the west, ÖBB will build a rolling stock maintenance centre on the site of the former freight terminal at Matzleinsdorf
  • The Matzleinsdorf maintenance centre will be built on the sight of a former goods yard and terminal
  • CAPTION: Striking architecture will ensure that there is plenty of natural light at platform level
  • CAPTION: Mayor of Wien Michael Häupl, ÖBB Managing Director Martin Huber and Austrian Federal Transport Minister Werner Faymann attended a start of work ceremony at Südtiroler Platz on June 12

Key dates in Wien Central Station project

2006 Initial plans drawn up, environmental strategy developed and start of work on Waldmanngründe bus station.
2007 Work starts on reconstruction of Südtiroler Platz and associated passageway to U-Bahn Line U1; environmental impact studies begin for track remodelling, property redevelopment and new roads.
2008 Architectural competition for property investment schemes and initial land clearance.
2009Completion of Südtiroler Platz station reconstruction; main track remodelling starts; construction begins on BahnhofCity shopping centre and apartment buildings.
2012First services begin using partly-completed Central Station; road layout on the Gürtel is altered; office and apartment blocks finished.
2013Formal opening of Central Station, completion of shopping centre and underground car park.
2015Completion of track remodelling; all train services use Central Station.