Austrian railway’s coach venture racks up losses

Hellö, the new long-distance coach arm of Austria’s ÖBB state-owned railway, has run up losses of at least 5.7million (£4.9million) after only six months of operations, the national daily newspaper Der Standard reports. The article quotes members of the ÖBB supervisory board.

A spokesman for ÖBB, which also operates thousands of Postbus-branded buses in Austria, says it is not company practice to comment on figures. ‘We knew full well from the outset that this is a fiercely-competitive international market,’ he adds and Hellö chief executive officer Andreas Hahn hopes to break even and carry a million passengers annually by 2020.

Hellö competes with Austrian rail on some routes and there has been criticism from politicians who say the start-up is a waste of public money.

The spokesman says Hellö sold 100,000 tickets since starting up last July, adding that ‘that is impressive for a newcomer’. Until last September, it was offering 15 (£12.90) single tickets to 11 European cities.

Media reports say ridership in its 28 Mercedes-Benz Tourismos remains modest and the company started reducing services last autumn. The Innsbruck-Munich route has been dropped and the Vienna-Strasbourg route terminates in Karlsruhe, but frequency of more popular links between Vienna and Berlin or Munich has been increased.