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How the new Léman Express train link will ease Geneva’s traffic woes

Opening in mid-December, the Léman Express is set to be Europe’s largest cross-border train network. Here’s how it will reduce journey times and cut traffic in and around Geneva.

How the new Léman Express train link will ease Geneva’s traffic woes
A long-distance train in Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

On December 15th, a decade of work on the Léman Express train linking Geneva with surrounding towns and villages, will be complete. 

The network is set to get tens of thousands of passengers off the road and will significantly reduce Geneva’s traffic congestion.  

READ MORE: What you need to know about Geneva’s new traffic rules

How will the Léman Express cut traffic in Geneva?

According to the SBB, the network will include 40 new trains and will transport more than 50,000 people daily. 

When it opens on December 15th, it will comprise 45 stations and 230 kilometres of track – extending beyond the Geneva canton borders into Vaud as well as France. 

It will reduce road traffic in Geneva by 12 percent during peak hours. 

Almost half a million vehicles – 446,700 to be exact – crossed the cantonal borders of Geneva each day in 2018, as estimated by the Canton of Geneva. 

Image: Leman Express Courtesy SBB

The majority come from Haute-Savoie in neighbouring France (241,000), while 112,700 come from the canton of Vaud and a further 92,900 come from Gex-Ain in France. 

The centrepiece of the network will be the link between Geneva and Haute-Savoie, from which nine out of ten of the almost 90,000 border workers make their daily journey by car. 

The network is also expected to be significantly cheaper, with workers saving on car, fuel and parking costs. 

While the majority will be work travellers, the SBB estimates a large proportion will also be students and holiday-makers. 

The Geneva main station. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

How much will the Léman Express cost? 

As reported in Swiss media outlet Le Temps, the cost of a monthly ticket is expected to be around CHF170 (€160), but will differ depending on the specific route.

While it may seem expensive when compared to other cities and regions, monthly parking and motorway tolls for workers in Geneva can be much more – before fuel and car maintenance costs are taken into account. 

Hospital workers in Geneva, for instance, pay CHF250 per month on parking and tolls alone, meaning that in addition to saving time, the journey will be potentially thousands of francs/euros per year cheaper. 

Traffic in Geneva

For residents of Geneva or just those who have made a visit, no you aren’t imagining it – the city’s traffic is the worst in Switzerland. 

According to the Tom Tom Traffic Index, which ranks the world’s cities according to congestion and hours lost in traffic, Geneva is the worst in the country – around 25 places worse than second-placed Zurich. 

Traffic in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Geneva even places lower than larger cities like Shanghai, Hamburg and Singapore – with Geneva losing 138 hours per year during peak hours on work days. 

A decade in the making, more than a century in the planning

The rail network which has now become the Léman Express was first planned over a century ago, when the canton of Geneva and Swiss Federal Rail (SBB) agreed to expand the existing lines throughout the canton and into neighbouring France.

The demand for the network has only grown over the past century, particularly as the number of so-called frontaliers – Geneva workers who live in France – has climbed north of 100,000 people. 

As reported in Swiss media outlet Le Temps, the goal is not only to reduce travel times but to create a broader metropolis which links Geneva’s surrounding towns and villages with the city. 

Professor of Urban Development at the University of Geneva Laurent Matthey, told Le Temps that the network will create a sense of regional identity which spans cantonal and even national borders. 

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“This could certainly affirm a regional identity (around Geneva). The network will connect a number of centres economically, but also culturally,” he said. 

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For members


Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

Switzerland’s cities usually nab top rankings in international quality of living studies. But in a new survey, only one Swiss town made it to the top 10. Here’s why.

Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash
Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

Basel is ranked in the 9th place out of 57 cities surveyed in the new Expat City Ranking 2021.

Carried out by InterNations, the annual survey rates cities around the world in terms of advantages they offer to foreign nationals who move there for professional reasons.

READ MORE: The best commuter towns if you work in Basel

The survey, which polled 12,420 people for its 2021 edition, ranks cities based on criteria such as Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living, along with their sub-categories.

Of the four Swiss cities analysed in the study — Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne — only Basel was highly rated, and is one of only three European cities ranked in the top 10 (the others are Prague, in 7th place, and Madrid in 10th).

This is why

A popular destination for international employees because of its pharmaceutical industry, including giants like Roche and Novartis, Basel ranked well across all categories.

For instance, it is in the 1st place for its public transportation network, in a 2nd position in terms of Quality of Urban Living, and in 3rd for Safety & Politics.

All expats in Basel (100 percent) are satisfied with public transportation, versus 69 percent globally. The public transportation system is excellent”, one respondent said.

Nearly all participants (97 percent) feel safe there, against 84 percent globally. The city also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (6th), particularly for the state of the local economy, which is in the 1st place and the working hours (8th); additionally,  75 percent are happy with their working hours, compared to 66 percent globally.

More than four in five expats (84 percent) find their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77 percent globally), and 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (against 64 globally).

Where Basel is doing less well is in the  Finance & Housing Index (34th place), though it still ranks ahead of other Swiss cities: Zurich (37th), Lausanne (39th), and Geneva (53rd).

But the city ranks 48th in the Local Cost of Living Index: 69 percent of foreigners living there are dissatisfied with the cost of living, more than double the global average (34 percent).

The Getting Settled Index (39th) is another of Basel’s weak points. Internationals struggle with getting used to the local culture: more than one in four respondents (26 percent) state that they find this difficult — this figure is 18 percent 1globally.

It is worth mentioning that in the 2020 InterNations survey, Basel ranked in the 24th place, so it progressed impressively this year.

What about Geneva?

Switzerland’s most “international” city due to the presence of a number of United Nations agencies and multinational companies, places near the bottom of the ranking, in the 47th place.

“It has the worst results among the Swiss cities included in the report and is the only one that does not rank in the global top 10 of the Quality of Urban Living Index”, InterNations said.

Similar to the other Swiss cities, Geneva ranks among the top 10 for political stability (1st) and in the bottom 10 for the affordability of healthcare (56th). However, it lags behind for all other factors, with expats particularly dissatisfied with the local leisure options (23 percent versus 14 percent globally).

“Interestingly, the comparably low quality of life does not make Geneva any easier to afford: on the contrary, it is the worst-ranking city worldwide in the Local Cost of Living Index (57th) and by far the worst-rated Swiss city in the Finance & Housing Index (53rd)”, the report noted.

It added that “while Geneva comes 26th in the Finance Subcategory, it ranks 55th in the Housing Subcategory, only ahead of Dublin (56th) and Munich (57th). Expats find housing in Geneva unaffordable (87 percent  vs. 39 percent globally) and hard to find (63 percent vs. 23 percent globally).”

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Geneva has a fairly average performance in the Urban Work Life Index (28th) but receives worse results in the Getting Settled Index (43rd). It ends up in the bottom 10 of the Feeling Welcome (52nd), Local Friendliness (50th), and Friends & Socializing (48th) subcategories.

“It is certainly not easy to integrate into the local culture and community,” said one respondent. In fact, 35 percent find the locals generally unfriendly, against 16 percent globally).

The difficulty is making friends in Switzerland is a well-known phenomenon among the international community.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

Maybe this is also why they find it hard to get used to the local culture (32 percent versus  18 percent globally) and do not feel at home — 33 percent compared to 19 percent  globally).

Zurich and Lausanne

The two other Swiss cities with a high proportion of international residents fall between the “best” and the “worst”, with Lausanne in the 21st place and Zurich in the 34th.

“All of them rank among the bottom 10 worldwide for the local cost living but among the top 10 for the local quality of life— except for Geneva, which lands in 21st place.”, the survey noted.

This InterNations chart shows how the four the cities are doing in each category. Please click here for a larger version of the chart. 

Image: Internations

You can find out more about each of the four cities from these links. 

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’