Services Rendered by the Austrian Railways for the Public Welfare
The Federal Austrian Railways ÖBB render a number of services commissioned and paid for at federal government level. Revenues from such "services for the public welfare" were almost half the revenues from regular rates in 1999. At ATS 4.8 billion, the "socially compatible rates system" for passenger transport required by the Federal Government constituted by far the largest item. The system is designed to improve mobility among low-income strata and facilitate their access to work and education. Season tickets were reduced by up to 91 percent, by ÖBB calculations. A monthly season ticket for a distance of 25 km in Switzerland and Germany thus costs more than double the price payable in Austria. Distribution analyses show that it is quasi-urban middle-income people rather than the lower income strata who profit from cut rates for railway tickets. In 1999, the federal government also commissioned 59 million railway kilometres for commuter and regional passenger transport, at a cost of ATS 1.4 billion. This environmentally friendly transport offer is to be reserved as contingency resources to maintain mobility. The ÖBB decide on the actual deployment of trains. Regional trains often show a low user frequency, whereas busses and on-call collective taxi cabs could, at least in part, render the transport services in a cheaper, more customer-friendly and less resources-consuming manner. The purpose of the contingency reserves is not to ensure that trains operate but that transport services are offered in line with demand. For its rail passenger transport, the ÖBB achieved revenues from public welfare services in 1999 which were almost 30 percent higher than their revenues from regular rates. In spite of such considerable subsidising of railway services, there has been hardly any shift from motorised passenger traffic to the railway, as would be desirable from a traffic and environmental point of view. Efficient use of means for public welfare services in passenger transport is expected when: • service ordering is regionalised in line with the subsidiarity principle; • the regional orderer also bears financial responsibility; and • inter- and intramodal competition between transport service providers is created by way of tendering services for the public welfare. Some countries (such as Switzerland, Germany or Sweden) have already started down this path. For goods transport services for the public welfare, the federal government spent about ATS 2.1 billion in 1999. Of this sum, ATS 1.16 billion was paid in support of combined transport, which aims to shift transit goods transport from the road to the rail. The compensation for each metric ton/km was 0.33 ATS in 1999, whereas it was just 0.25 ATS per metric ton/km in Switzerland. In addition to federal payments for combined transport schemes, payments were also made for transports of problem and scrap waste, for the construction of feeder lines and to cover additional costs and payment defaults regarding RIV rental of railway freight wagons. It is difficult to find a reasonable justification for categorising freight transport services as for the "public welfare". It should be investigated whether the funds budgeted for such services should not be rather used for streamlining measures which could generally strengthen the railway's competitiveness in freight transport by improving productivity and quality.
Die gemeinwirtschaftlichen Leistungen der Österreichischen Bundesbahnen; Services Rendered by the Austrian Railways for the Public Welfare
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