CHANGE is coming to Austria. Newly-appointed Transport Minister Monika Forstinger has made it clear that she favours the European Commission’s view on rail policy (p3), and will campaign for competition. Until now Austria had interpreted Directives on separation of infrastructure and operations somewhat loosely - and indeed it was not alone. Now Forstinger has told Austrian Federal Railways that she intends to see the rulings fully implemented, but whether she will succeed is not wholly under her control.

ÖBB reacted swiftly to the views she expressed in November, with General Manager Helmut Draxler telling the media that separation of accounts for operations and infrastructure is one thing but physical separation is quite another. Warning that ’loss of synergy’ would lead to additional costs totalling Sch1bn, he criticised the view held in Brussels that rail freight enjoyed a monopoly, repeating the argument that it has to compete for cargo against road and inland waterways.

HFrom January 1 ÖBB’s freight subsidiary Rail Cargo Austria has assigned its wagon fleet to a newly-established company called Industrie Waggon AG. The aim is to manage the 18500 strong fleet more effectively, with customers paying to use wagons as if they were privately owned.