Under the urbs
The underground is operated by Wiener Linien. "The Vienna underground is the city's favorite mode of transport," Reinhard Glaser, technical consultant at Wiener Linien, is pleased to pronounce. "Up to one and a half million people – and rising – use it every day." On their way to work, to school, to see the sights or on an excursion from the kindergarten – you see people of every age on the Vienna underground. Large entrance halls, marble flooring and modern art are what strikes you on entering the stations. Escalators take you from bright daylight into the equally light neon-illuminated underground stations and onto the platforms. Every few minutes, the "silver arrows" – as they are called by the locals – whizz in and out of the underground stations. First of all, you hear a thunderous rumbling emanating from the dark tunnels, and then the rattling of the rails. The silver trains shoot into the station accompanied by a quite noticeable rush of air and squealing brakes. The doors open, a swarm of passengers spills out and at least as many take their places from the platform. The underground trains travel at up to 80 kph. It is rush hour – people are hurrying to work. A mad scramble from one train to another. The myriad shoe soles clap and clatter on the floor and the cacophony of voices continually reverberates, with the announcer on the PA system mixed in for good measure. Clunk – the doors close, there is a loud hiss and the train disappears into the dark tunnel as quickly as it emerged. And if you miss your train, the next one will be along in just a couple of minutes. "What is special about the Vienna underground are the clean stations, the frequency of the trains and the reliability of the service," Glaser explains. "So passengers get around the city very quickly." The stations also have much to offer the traveler. Karlsplatz underground station is decorated with marble floors. Illuminated signs show the way to the various lines and city sights. There is even classical opera music playing in the toilets. Brightly lit advertisement hoardings, giant screens showing breaking news from around the world, neon signs on the floor – electricity is important here.