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TRAINS: Austria’s Railjet

Austria is relatively new to high-speed rail and theirs is not the fastest, but from the look of their Railjet express train, they’re doing a lot of things right.

As an unapologetic fan of rail travel, especially the high-speed variety now common across Europe and much of Asia, I’m always on the lookout for something innovative in train travel.

It looks as if the Austrians have come up with one aboard their national high-speed line, Railjet.

Austria is a relative newcomer to high-speed rail, having launched Railjet in 2008. It runs the length of Austria and connects the country with Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.

A new line later this year will connect to the Czech Republic.

With a top speed of about 140 miles per hour, it’s hardly the fastest high-speed passenger train in the world, or even in Europe. But Austria being a relatively small country, anything much faster probably would be overkill.

Passengers have their choice of three classes — Economy (aka 2nd class), First and Business. I list them in that order because on this train, Business class is their premier service.

All seats come with power outlets and all look to have decent legroom. First and Business Class come with a single-seat side for those traveling solo, really plush-looking leather recliners and more than enough legroom for anyone short of an NBA center.

About the only thing really separating First and Business Class seems to be that in Business, your seats come in a semi-enclosed compartment.

Attendants serve snacks and drinks from carts reminiscent of airliners, but Railjet is one of the few high-speed trains in Europe with a restaurant car.

If you’re sitting in First or Business Class, your drinks and snacks come with your ticket, and you have the option of having restaurant meals served at your seat, albeit for an extra charge.

For most travelers, Economy Class is probably more than adequate, but with the surcharge for a seat upgrade costing only 15 euros, why not treat yourself? Let’s face it, you’ll never pay that little for a First Class seat on an airliner.

Two other things really stand out about Railjet.

One is the lengths to which they’ve gone to accommodate disabled passengers — not only with specially designed spaces to accept wheelchairs on board, but offering 50 percent discounts to disabled or elderly travelers. That’s classy.

But the thing that first hooked my attention in the first place about Railjet — and as it turns out, Austrian inter-city trains in general — are the things they do to keep children entertained.

The end car on Railjet trains has a kids cinema and play area, complete with slides and others things to climb on.

About the only area where Railjet seems to fall a bit short is when it comes to wifi. The train does indeed comes with free wifi, but only while running within Austrian territory. But that really is a very minor quibble.

Comfortable seats. Food and drink that come to you. Power and wifi for the laptop and kids happily playing away at the back of the train — where I can’t hear them. Sounds like the Austrians are doing a lot of things right with their high-speed train.

A little run from Munich to Vienna on Railjet sounds like fun, does it not?

NOTE: The YouTube video above comes from The Man in Seat 61, one of the best Web sites for anyone interested in train travel. Highly recommended.

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