For this month’s Practice & Performance, John Heaton FCILT uses some of his holiday time to sample Austrian ‘Railjet’ services in the Tyrol, as well as tourist steam services in one of Europe’s most beautiful countries.
The Siemens ‘Taurus’ Bo-Bo electric locomotive certainly looked sleek as it stood at the head of its ‘Railjet’ service at Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof, but I was not ready for its stage performance on departure for Bregenz via the Arlberg.
British railway enthusiasts are familiar with the tune hummed by Siemens EMUs on starting, but these Austrian Class 1116s clear their throat and then sing a perfect octave ‘Doh-Re-Me-Fah-So-Lah-Te-Doh’.
I discount gossip that their 1976-built Class 1144 counterparts are to be retro-fitted with ‘Edelweiss’ but perhaps there is more credibility in the rumour that the Class 1116s dedicated to Alpine routes will be adapted to sing ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’.
Just why the Austrian Railways Östeirreiche Bundesbahn (OBB) should have decided to market their prime railway services ‘Railjet’ with connotations of heavily polluting aircraft, I am not sure, but it nevertheless seems to work.
The most modern seven-car sets, with a ‘driver first’ at one end and a Class 1116 on the other, extend their airline pretensions by using ‘business’, ‘first’ and ‘economy’ branding, but economy is a good deal more comfortable than any airborne accommodation of the same name that I have used. Some services justify a double carriage often with a locomotive in the middle which ‘take off’ in an impressive style.
The main Innsbruck station is dominated by the intimidating Olympic ski-jump ramp, preparing arriving visitors for the Alpine slopes on their journey to such tourist honey-pots as fashionable Kitzbühel.
Some of this is lost on the ‘Railjet’ passengers though because the new high-speed alignment to Jenbach, avoiding local passenger trains and intensive freight traffic along the Inn valley floor, involves a large proportion of tunnels. Leaving Innsbruck on the 08.40 Bregenz-Wien ‘Achensee’ express with a 4min deficit No. 1116-157’s driver was probably hoping for a tail wind.
The 34km (21miles) to Jenbach were covered in 15min 30 sec at a start to stop average of 132kph (82mph), but I regret I was ill-prepared to measure the speed through the new tunnels although I gather that 200kph (124mph) is the maximum permissible. We then ran the 24.9km (15.5miles) to Wörgl in 11min 20sec with a maximum speed a shade over 160kph (99mph).
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