‘Austrian rail sector, be more attractive for potential staff’

The Austrian railway company ÖBB has sat around the table with the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), one of the largest nature and environmental protection organisations in the world, and they agreed about three things:the sector should get more attractive, the infrastructure should expand, and digitalisation must go on.
ÖBB is part of the WWF CLIMATE GROUP, a national working group consisting of several companies, among them also the customers of rail. The second stakeholder dialogue was recently held, and here the parties agreed about these three key points of action to further develop rail freight, because rail freight is the more sustainable mode of transport.

An attractive industry to work in

Companies within the industry are facing major problems at all levels in finding the necessary skilled workers for a sustainable transformation. In order to remedy this, they will need to focus on employer branding, the participants of the discussion agreed.

“It is important to set the right incentives for new employees and to highlight “jobs that make sense”. Many young people are very interested in environmental and climate protection. Companies that demonstrably deal intensively with sustainability issues and that also communicate this commitment to potential employees find it easier to inspire the best minds for themselves.”, the ÖBB reports.

Infrastructure expansion

The rail infrastructure in Austria needs to be expanded for an increased shift of freight transport to rail. ÖBB will double the capacity of the railways by 2040. A key success factor here is the current master plan, which provides for an investment volume of 18.2 billion euros in the domestic rail network from 2022 to 2027 alone.

However, a critical remark was made by one of the participants on the privatisation of railways. “The new construction or re-commissioning of private connecting railways for interested entrepreneurs should in any case continue to be supported and organised as well as before, this is the only way in which larger transport volumes will also come on the rails in the future”, emphasized Kurt Bernegger, managing director of Bernegger.

He mentioned that “the mechanisms for financing the maintenance of these branch lines must be changed, so that it becomes attractive again for ÖBB not only to maintain such branch lines, but to expand them again in the future”.

Changing spatial planning

Apart from that, there was a discussion about Austrian spatial planning when it comes to infrastructure expansion. According to the participants this had to change, because too much area is sealed in Austria and this has a negative effect on the environment and the climate.

National guidelines and sanctioning options are urgently needed here, was the conclusion. Under the motto “Nature instead of concrete”, the WWF campaigns for surface protection and against surface sealing. Some participants also asked the ÖBB and politicians to protect and revitalise currently unused areas for future rail freight transport.


Third, digitalisation is also essential to making workplaces more attractive and simpler. The measures presented by the Rail Cargo Group (RCG), the cargo division of ​​ÖBB, to simplify access to the rail system were considered as positive efforts towards this goal. Low-threshold, user-specific systems are essential to attract more customers.

However, as great and important as all digitalisation measures in the rail sector are, they do not minimise the need for more loading points for rail freight transport, the working group concluded.


The WWF CLIMATE GROUP, as a network of domestic climate protection pioneers and industry leaders, provides voluntary and active climate protection. The focus is on the sustainable use of natural resources and ambitious business goals. The group is making a contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius.

Partner companies of the WWF CLIMATE GROUP: Allianz, BKS Bank, gugler communications house, IKEA, Mondi, ÖBB, Ochsner Wärmepumpen, SPAR, Unicredit Bank Austria, Vöslauer and the VBV Vorsorgekasse.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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