The main goal of the city government and the federal government in Austria is to keep public transport operational and unrestricted, as long as it is feasible. Therefore, there are no limitations of operations at the moment (as of 18 March 2020). However, the situation is very dynamic and is being monitored permanently. WL is in close contact with all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers on both the city and state levels.
WL has already taken the following actions:
- Staff’s taskforce dedicated to deal with this specific topic has been ordered and acquired the responsibility to provide detailed information on the crisis further developments.
- Access of internal staff to operational centres have been limited, while external visits have been fully canceled
- Employees have been ordered to do home officer wherever possible
- Events organized by the company were limited or canceled and all business trips of the staff have been forbidden until 30th April
- In order to guarantee safety, WL has collected recent travel information from their staff to temporarily dismiss those who have been to areas where contamination rates were high
- WL customer service is available by phone or mail as all customer service centres are closed
- Due to our timetable adjustments, it is possible to use only rolling stock with closed / physically separated cabins in tramway operations
- Regular information and updates on the corona crisis to employees and customers
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of seats and handlebars every night. Drivers cabins are cleaned twice a day
- Reporting obligation, if an employee, his or her partner or somebody in his or her environment is tested positive for COVID19
- Construction work has been limited and prioritised
Until 18 March, there were no economic implications in sight and no visible impacts of the situation when it comes to passenger numbers. However, given the fast-changing character of the pandemic, these implications cannot be properly assessed at the moment.
For instance, since classes are no longer taking place in schools, there will be significantly fewer passengers traveling in subways, trams and buses. In addition, many companies are currently largely switching to home offices, as well as many cultural and leisure facilities have already been closed and numerous events canceled. Furthermore, many of annual ticket holders will be increasingly canceling subscriptions.
Given those expected upcoming constraints, WL has been adjusting timetables to meet a lower demand. Since Wednesday, March 18th, a reduced timetable came into effect and the vehicles started to drive according to the vacation schedule of a weekday. Additionally, the night subway stopped running, being replaced by night buses. In the daily traffic on the weekends – i.e. Saturdays and Sundays – the Sunday plans were applied. Fewer employees in the driving service also means fewer contact options with potentially infected people.
Reducing operations to what is really necessary not only applies to WL’s driving operations, but also to every other area that its services encompass. It is up to their managers to decide who has to be present at the office, who uses home office and who is assigned to reserve service. These decisions have been reported to their dedicated taskforce who Is in charge of overviewing and coordinating all the measures taken by each department of the company.
Urban mobility needs to be safeguarded and public transport plays an essential role here. Therefore, the health of the employees responsible for providing those services has become even more vital, since the public transport of Vienna would not operate at all without them.
Operationally, WL is also facing challenges when it comes to the extension of the required driving licenses, particularly for busses, since the competent authority is not properly working. WL’s emergency operations related to the traffic management control center have been reduced by 50%.