Vienna U-Bahn

Vienna U-Bahn

V-type train in Stadtpark station
Native name U-Bahn Wien
Locale Vienna, Austria
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 5[1]
Number of stations 104[1]
Daily ridership 1.3 million (avg. daily, 2009)[2]
Annual ridership 439.8 million (2014)[1]
Website Wiener Linien
Began operation 8 May 1976 (1976-05-08)
(test operation)
25 February 1978 (1978-02-25)[3]
(official opening)
Operator(s) Wiener Linien
Number of vehicles 778[1]
Headway 2–15 minutes
System length 78.5 km (48.8 mi)[4][5]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 750 V DC Third rail (U1-4)
Overhead lines (U6)
Average speed 32.5 km/h (20.2 mph)[4]
Top speed 85 km/h (53 mph)

The Vienna U-Bahn (German: U-Bahn Wien), where U-Bahn is an abbreviation of the German term Untergrundbahn (English: underground railway), is one of the two rapid transit (metro) systems for Vienna, Austria. The second system is the Vienna S-Bahn. With the opening in October 2013 of the 4.2 kilometers (2.6 mi)-, three-station extension of the U2 line,[6][7] the five line U-Bahn network consists of 78.5 kilometers (48.8 mi) of route, serving 104 stations.[4] It is the backbone of one of the best performing public transport systems worldwide according to UITP (International Association of Public Transport) in June 2009.[2] More than 1.3 million passengers rode the Vienna U-Bahn every day in 2009,[2] and 567.6 million passengers used the U-Bahn in 2011,[8] which declined to 428.8 million passengers in 2013.[4] The network is undergoing expansion and rolling stock renewal. Since 1969, 200 million euros have been invested annually in the extension of the Vienna U-Bahn.[2]

The modern U-Bahn opened on 25 February 1978[4][3] (after test operations began on 8 May 1976), but two of the lines extended and later designated as U-Bahn (U4, U6) date back to the Stadtbahn ("city railway") system, which opened in 1898. Parts of the U2 and U6 lines began as subway tunnels built to accommodate earlier tram lines. Only the U1 and U3 were built wholly as new subway lines.

Lines are designated by a number and the prefix "U" (for U-Bahn) and identified on station signage and related literature by a colour. There are five lines; U1, U2, U3, U4 and U6. Since the late 1960s there have been numerous suggestions of routings for a line U5, but all these projects had been shelved until the construction of a new U5 was announced in early 2014.[9] Stations are often named after streets, public spaces or districts, and in some special cases after prominent buildings at or near the station, although the policy of the Wiener Linien states that they prefer not to name stations after buildings.

Ticketing for the network is integrated under the Wiener Linien umbrella brand with all means of public transport in Vienna, including trams and buses. Local tickets are valid on S-Bahn suburban rail services and other train services but these are operated by the state railway operator, ÖBB. Tickets are not valid on bus services operated by Vienna Airport Lines and the City Airport Train express train.

Vienna U-Bahn trains of both types leaving Längenfeldgasse station: left, standard train on line U4 with third rail power; right, T-cars train on U6 powered by overhead lines
U-Bahn train over Old Danube


Compared to other underground railways worldwide, the Vienna U-Bahn is young. The question of whether to build a Vienna U-Bahn was the subject of heated debate for over one hundred years. From 1844 to the 1960s, numerous mass train transport plans were discussed, ignored or simply rejected.

U4 train of the Vienna U-Bahn running on track of the former Stadtbahn; Hofpavillon Hietzing station designed for the Imperial family in 1899 by Otto Wagner
Pavilion formerly used as entrance to Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, in Jugendstil style by Otto Wagner

The first system to be constructed was a four-line Stadtbahn railway network (which had been planned to have three main and three local lines) using steam trains. Ground was broken in 1892, and the system was opened in stages between 11 May 1898 and 6 August 1901. At Hütteldorf, the Stadtbahn connected to railway service to the west, and at Heiligenstadt, to railway service on the Franz Josef Line, which then ran eastwards within the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Eger. Some of the Jugendstil stations for this system designed by Otto Wagner are still in use. However, the Stadtbahn proved inadequate for mass transport, less successful than the tramway. Starting in 1910, plans were considered for an underground system, but were interrupted by the First World War, which also necessitated closing the Stadtbahn to civilian use. After the war, the economic situation of a smaller and poorer country ruled out continuing with the plan. However, starting on 26 May 1924 the Stadtbahn was electrified, something that many had called for before the war, and from autumn 1925 it was integrated with the tramway rather than the railways. The frequency of trains tripled. Plans for a U-Bahn dating to 1912–14 were revived and discussions took place in 1929, but the Great Depression again necessitated abandoning planning.

Both in 1937 and after the Anschluß, when Vienna became the largest city by surface area in the Third Reich, ambitious plans for a U-Bahn, and a new central railway station, were discussed. Test tunnelling took place, but these plans, too, had to be shelved when the Second World War broke out.

Severe war damage caused the Stadtbahn system to be suspended in some areas until 27 May 1945. The redevelopment of stations took until the 1950s. Meanwhile, Vienna was occupied by the four allied powers until 1955, and in 1946 had returned three quarters of the pre-war expanded Greater Vienna to the state of Lower Austria. Two proposals for U-Bahn systems were nonetheless presented, in 1953 and 1954. Increasing car traffic led to cutbacks in the S-Bahn network that were partially made up for by buses. The U-Bahn issue was also politicised: in the 1954 and 1959 city council elections, the conservative Austrian People's Party championed construction of a U-Bahn, but the more powerful Social Democratic Party of Austria campaigned for putting housing first. The city council repeatedly rejected the U-Bahn idea in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Extensions of the Stadtbahn system had always been discussed as an alternative to building a new U-Bahn. But it was not until the late 1960s, when the Stadtbahn and the Schnellbahn were no longer able to adequately serve the ever-increasing public traffic, that the decision to build a new network was taken. On 26 January 1968, the city council voted to begin construction of a 30 km basic network (Grundnetz). Construction began on 3 November 1969[3][10] on and under Karlsplatz, where three lines of the basic network were to meet, and where central control of the U-Bahn was located. Test operation began on 8 May 1976 on line U4, and the first newly constructed (underground) stretch of line opened on 25 February 1978 (five stations on U1 between Reumannplatz and Karlsplatz).[3]

The construction of the Vienna U-Bahn network can be divided into several stages:[2]

Initial construction (1969–1982): Basic network (Grundnetz)

U-Bahn construction at Karlsplatz and Kärntner Straße, 1973; tram running on temporary trestle

First, the basic network (Grundnetz) was chosen from the various network designs. During 1967, plans for the U2 were radically reduced and the U3 completely deleted, and the approved basic network was described as a 'closer basic network'.[2] This closer basic network, consisting of the U1, U2 and U4 lines, included:

Construction began on 3 November 1969. On 25 February 1978, the first Vienna U-Bahn route between Karlsplatz and Reumannplatz, the U1, went into operation. With twelve partial commissionings, the Vienna U-Bahn basic network was completed on 3 September 1982.

Second expansion phase (1982–2000): Lines U3 and U6

Vienna U-Bahn network in 1982

The second phase involved the expansion of the U3 and U6 lines (about 61 km, (37.9 mi)). The groundbreaking ceremony for this phase took place on 7 September 1983 on Pottendsdorfer Street at the Philadelphia Bridge and after six years, the central section of the U6 between Philadelphia Bridge and Heligenstadt/Friedensbrücke went into operation.

By mid-1990, the U6 had been extended from Siebenhirten to Floridsdorf and the U3 from Simmering to Ottakring constructed.

Third expansion phase (2001–2010): The first extensions of U1 and U2

Vienna U-Bahn network in 2000
Vienna U-Bahn network in 2010

In 1996, a new U-Bahn contract, known as the "30 billion package", was settled. For the first time in Europe, a U-Bahn project had to undergo a costly and lengthy environmental impact assessment, as the U2 extension showed a length of more than 10 km (6.2 mi).[2] This expansion phase involved:

U1 extension to Leopoldau

On 19 October 2001, the groundbreaking ceremony for the extension of U1 was held, for which the two districts had been waiting for 20 years.[2] After five years of construction, the 4.6 km (2.9 mi) long extension of the U1 was opened on 2 September 2006.

U2 extension from Schottenring to Stadium

On 12 June 2003, the groundbreaking ceremony took place outside the Stadion (stadium). Because of the 2008 European Football Championships in Austria, there was enormous pressure to complete the construction on time. The Wiener Linien met the deadline, and on 10 May 2008 the U2 extension to the stadium was opened.

U2 extension from Stadium to Aspern

On 2 October 2010, a further six stations were opened taking the U2 across the Danube via Donaustadtbrücke to Aspernstrasse in the twenty-second district (Donaustadt).[11] An additional 4.2 kilometers (2.6 mi), three station extension of the U2 to Aspern Seestadt was officially opened on 5 October 2013.[6][7]


Volkstheater U-Bahn station (line U3), with mosaics by Anton Lehmden
Date Line Stretch opened Stretch closed
1976-05-08 Heiligenstadt – Friedensbrücke
1978-02-25 Reumannplatz – Karlsplatz
1978-04-03 Friedensbrücke – Schottenring
1978-08-15 Schottenring – Karlsplatz
1978-11-18 Karlsplatz – Stephansplatz
1979-11-24 Stephansplatz – Nestroyplatz
1980-08-30 Karlsplatz – Schottenring
1980-10-26 Karlsplatz – Meidling
1981-02-28 Nestroyplatz – Praterstern
1981-08-31 Meidling Hauptstraße – Hietzing
1981-12-20 Hietzing – Hütteldorf
1982-09-03 Praterstern – Kagran
1989-10-07 Philadelphiabrücke (Bahnhof Meidling) – Heiligenstadt
1991-04-06 Erdberg – Volkstheater
1993-09-04 Volkstheater – Westbahnhof
1994-09-03 Westbahnhof – Johnstraße
1995-04-15 Philadelphiabrücke (Bahnhof Meidling) – Siebenhirten
1996-05-04 Nußdorfer Straße – Floridsdorf Nußdorfer Straße – Heiligenstadt
1998-12-05 Johnstraße – Ottakring
2000-12-02 Erdberg – Simmering
2006-09-02 Kagran – Leopoldau
2008-05-10 Schottenring – Stadion
2010-10-02 Stadion – Aspernstraße
2013-10-05 Aspernstraße - Seestadt

U-Bahn network

With the opening in October 2013 of the 4.2 kilometers (2.6 mi)-, three-station extension of the U2 line,[6][7] the U-Bahn consists of 78.5 kilometers (48.8 mi) of route.[4][5] With the U2 extension, the five U-Bahn lines (U1-U4 and U6) now serve 104 stations,[4][5] including nine interchanges. Further extensions of the Vienna U-Bahn are scheduled to be completed by 2019. Upon completion, there will then be a network that is 90 kilometers (56 mi) long with 116 stations.[2] Some plans have been proposed for the system beyond 2019, although such plans are currently unfunded.

U-Bahn services run between 5 am and around 1 am at intervals between two and five minutes during the day and up to eight after 8 pm. Since 4 September 2010, there has been a 24-hour service operating at a 15-minute interval in the nights between Fridays - Saturdays, Saturdays - Sundays and in the nights prior to a public holiday. The 24-hour U-Bahn is supplemented in these nights by Vienna NightLine bus services.

Line Colour Route Length Stations
red ReumannplatzLeopoldau 14.6 km (9.1 mi) 19
purple KarlsplatzSeestadt 16.7 km (10.4 mi) 20
orange OttakringSimmering 13.5 km (8.4 mi) 21
green HütteldorfHeiligenstadt 16.5 km (10.3 mi) 20
brown SiebenhirtenFloridsdorf 17.4 km (10.8 mi) 24


Vienna U-Bahn stations
Reumannplatz station 
Donauinsel station entrance 
Museumsquartier station sculpture 
U2 platform at Karlsplatz station 
Erdberg station 
Platform 2 of Hütteldorf station 
Gumpendorfer Straße station by Otto Wagner (2007) 
Josefstädter Straße station (by Otto Wagner) 
Stadtpark station entrance by Otto Wagner 

Projected expansion

Fourth expansion phase (2010–2017): Further extension of the Vienna U-Bahn

Projected network 2017

Planning for a fourth U-Bahn expansion phase began in 2001 and concrete ideas were put forth in the 2003 Transport Master Plan.[2] Two projects have been approved:

Fifth expansion phase (2018–2023): New U5 Line

The fifth expansion phase will involve dividing the existing U2 line at Rathaus Station into two lines and then extending each of them. The section of the U2 line from Rathaus to Karlsplatz will be upgraded for driverless operation and become part of the new U5 line, which will extend from Rathaus to Elterleinplatz via an interchange with the U6 at Michelbeuern AKH. The rump U2 line will be extended from Rathaus to Wienerberg via interchanges with the U3 at Neubaugasse and the U4 at Pilgramgasse. The U5 line will be Vienna's first driverless U-bahn line.[13][14]

Rolling stock

The Vienna U-Bahn has three types of rolling stock, and has maintenance of way equipment. The U1, U2, U3, and U4 have two types of rolling stock: the older U/U1/U2 type (introduced in 1972) and the newer V type (introduced in 2002). The U6 has one class of train, the T/T1 type (introduced in 1993), the older E6/C6 having been retired in 2008 and which now mostly operate in Utrecht in the Netherlands and Kraków in Poland, with a single set being preserved at the Vienna Streetcar Museum.


In common with many urban transit systems, the Vienna U-Bahn has art works in stations. These include:

See also


Inline references

  1. 1 2 3 4 "Wiener Linien – U-Bahn 2001 bis 2014" [Vienna Transport - Subway 2001 to 2014] (in German). Wiener Linien. April 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Hödl, J: Das Wiener U-Bahn-Netz, Wiener Linien, 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Happy Birthday! 45 Jahre Wiener U-Bahn" [Happy Birthday! 45 Years of the Vienna U-Bahn] (in German). Wiener Linien. November 2014. Retrieved 2016-01-06.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "2014 Zahlen, Daten, Fakten - Unternehmen" [Company Profile - Figures, Data, Facts] (pdf) (in German). Wiener Linien. April 2015. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  5. 1 2 3 "Unternehmensprofil - Zahlen, Daten, Fakten" [Company Profile - Figures, Data, Facts] (in German). Wiener Linien. 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "U2 auf verlängerter Strecke unterwegs" [U2 Route Extended] (in German). Wiener Linien. 6 October 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "U2-Verlängerung eröffnet" [U2 extension opened] (in German). ORF Wien. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  8. "Alles über uns: Betriebsangaben 2011" (PDF) (in German). Wiener Linien. 2012.
  9. "Stadt fixiert Trassen von U2 und U5" (in German). ORF Wien. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  10. "U-Bahn-Bau feiert 40. Geburtstag" (in German). ORF Wien. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  11. "Wiener Linien opens U2 extension". Railway Gazette International. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
  12. "Wien metro line U1 to be extended to Oberlaa". Railway Gazette International. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  13. "Linien U2 und U5" [Lines U2 and U5] (in German). Wiener Linien. 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
  14. "Vienna to Introduce Driverless U-bahn Trains". International Railway Journal. 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-11-09.


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