Switzerland's SBB sets sights on hi-tech flying taxi service
Switzerland's national rail company (the SBB) wants to roll out a fully-electric flying taxi service alongside its more traditional services but not everyone is thrilled by the idea.
The SBB has signed a memorandum of understanding with German firm Lilium which would see the two companies working together to introduce the service in Switzerland.
The flying taxis could provide fast links between major train stations and destinations such as airports, congress venues or outlying city suburbs, according to Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.
Lilium already has a prototype of the space-age electric vertical take-off and landing jet that could be used for the service. The taxi takes off like a helicopter but then flies like an aeroplane. It has a range of 300 kilometres and can cover this distance in an hour.
While the details of the SBB–Lilium deal are yet to be thrashed out, the SBB believes the flying taxi service could be a valuable addition to its range of transport services, noting that individually-tailored mobility options will be key in future.
But sources within the Federal Office for Transport are not exactly thrilled that the SBB is heading down a road which could see it become a regional airline of sorts.
Ministry insiders told SonntagsZeitung the SBB had its priorities wrong and should be focusing on issues like low profitability, increasing issues with late trains and problems with new trains.
The SBB has come under fire in recent times over its new double-decker FV-Dosto trains with Inclusion Handicap, the umbrella organisation for disability groups in Switzerland, arguing the trains do meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Liberals MP Thierry Burkart expressed his irritation with the idea that a subsidised firm charged with overseeing the Swiss rail network was “operating in a completely different area.”