There’s not many people who reach the peak of one profession then seamlessly transition into topping another. Benjamin Franklin as well as a Founding Father of the USA was a scientist and inventor whose contributions continue to influence physics and electricity is certainly one. Frank Sinatra won an Oscar as well as countless accolodes and awards for his music, is another. More recently perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger heading from Hollywood straight to the Governor’s Mansion in California is a good example. Whilst Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxing world champions ever, looks likely to add to his existing political achievements and one day soon become President of the Philippines.
But have you heard about the rail executive (and SmartRail World reader) who this week has moved straight from a rail network's headquarters to the highest office in his land?
Well take a bow, Christian Kern who has departed his role as CEO of the Austrian Federal Railways (German: Österreichische Bundesbahnen or ÖBB) to become the new Chancellor of Austria. Sworn in on the 17th May, the Chancellor is head of the government of Austria and represents supreme federal authority of the executive branch. And his first role is to try and get the government and his party, the centre-left Social Democratic Party back on track, and put some brakes on the increasing popularity of support for the far-right.
Born in a working class district of Vienna, the son of an electrician and a secretary, Kern became a business journalist, then spent time in government communications before moving to a senior position at the largest Austrian electricity supplier, the Verbund AG. In 2010 Kern became CEO of Austrian Federal Railways. A popular CEO, he reordered ÖBB's finances, curbed mass early retirements and oversaw the completion of the new train station in Vienna.
"He was the first ÖBB boss to really stand by his workers," Roman Hebenstreit of the ÖBB works council told Austrian news website, the Local on Friday ”I've had to wipe a few tears away and comfort employees with the thought that it's not the end of the world that the boss is becoming Chancellor."
In Summer 2015 Kern successfully managed the transport of immense numbers of migrants transiting through Austria and into Germany during the refugee crisis.Although the response to this and resulting pressures from some sections of Austrian society has caused problems for the government,
On the announcement of Kern’s new role as Chancellor, Brigitte Ederer the Chairperson of OBB told staff; “I have come to appreciate Christian Kern as a professional manager, with a trusting and focused mainly on the future cooperation was always given. He retained even in difficult times a cool head and has the ultimate goal - to grasp the ÖBB as a modern service company - never lost sight of… It speaks for the positive development of the company, when a railwayman Chancellor of this country. For this success, the employees have contributed with their commitment.”
CFO Josef Halbmayr will take temporary charge of ÖBB with a full time successor stated to be in place by July 2016.
Chrisitan Kern who described himself as "a newly minted politician" on his appointment, is the first known head of state to be a subscriber to SmartRail World, we trust he will continue his readership from the Federal Chancellery in Vienna.
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