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REVEALED: The train routes Switzerland plans to cut

Switzerland’s federal railways (SBB) looks set to cut several popular rail lines affecting Zurich, Bern, Lucerne and Bellinzona. Here’s what you need to know.

A red SBB train in the Swiss city of Aarau, Switzerland

In its draft timetable for 2023, the SBB looks set to reduce the number of trains circulating between some Swiss cities, while adding services for leisure commuters. 

The lines will be cut due to a lack of demand, with the SBB telling Swiss media that train usage across the country had not returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

Some of the lines that will be cut however are in peak hours between major Swiss cities, which could be problematic for commuters. 

For instance, the SBB is planning to do away with several trains between Bern and Zurich, including those departing from Bern at 7:10am and 4:10pm, and the departures from Zurich at 6:49 am.

Two morning connections on the Lucerne-Zurich route are also to be eliminated, along with some off-peak-hour trains between Zurich and Arth-Goldau on weekdays and between Bellinzona to Zurich on Sundays. 

However, the draft timetable for 2023 also provides for an expansion for the leisure traffic on weekends, including between Geneva and Chur.

New direct connections are also planned on the Romanshorn-Interlaken route. This means that the tourist destinations in the Bernese Oberland will be better linked to eastern Switzerland and the Zurich area.

As yet, the draft timetable has only been seen by media sources, but will be released publicly for consultation towards the end of May. 

Night trains grow in popularity

A growing demand for night trains has seen a number of new routes added to the network going from Swiss cities to major European destinations. 

There will be an additional night train to Prague via Germany, while in the future lines to Leipzig and Dresden will be added. 

Existing lines to several German and Austrian cities like Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna and Graz will have their capacity expanded. 

Night trains have grown in popularity in recent years, a trend which was accelerated by the Covid pandemic. 

Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

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What is Switzerland’s ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

Want to know how to avoid traffic in Switzerland? This handy map will help you out.

What is Switzerland's ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

With narrow, winding roads and city and town centres which were designed long before cars were thought up, traffic in Switzerland can be terrible at the best of times. 

But things get particularly stuck on weekends and holidays, where people from Switzerland and abroad clog up the nation’s motorways, which can put a real dampener on your holiday plans. 

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

While most locals will be able to recognise when heavy traffic days are coming up so they can stay well away, new residents and tourists may have a harder time. 

To help out, Touring Club Suisse, Switzerland’s largest motor and mobility authority, each year comes up with the Traffic Jam Calendar, which lists the times of the year when traffic can be particularly bad. 

The calendar ranks days on four different traffic levels.

The standard days are in white, while slightly higher traffic days are in yellow. 

Days with a high traffic volume are listed in pink/orange, while very high traffic volumes are listed in red. 

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

The calendar shown above relates to 2022. The calendar for the current year can be seen here

When is traffic particularly bad in Switzerland? 

As can be seen from the calendar, the main days for bad traffic are in spring and summer. 

Not only are these the days when the weather is best, but they’re also peak tourist season for domestic and foreign tourists. 

READ MORE: When are the public holidays in Switzerland in 2022?

While there is not one very high volume traffic day in Switzerland from the start of September until the end of March, there are 32 from April to August. 

April alone has eight along with several high traffic days, due largely to the Easter holidays over the weekend of the 16th and 17th. In May, traffic ramps up before Ascension Day on the 26th. 

In June, Corpus Christi (3rd) and Whit Monday (6th) will both see high travel volumes. 

The situation is particularly serious in July and August however, where very weekend day has high traffic volumes. 

Even weekdays in these two months have increased traffic volumes, meaning that taking a day off and leaving earlier/coming back later will not be guaranteed to save you some time. 

Bottlenecks and delays: Which Swiss cities have the worst traffic?

Where is traffic the worst in Switzerland? 

While the traffic calendar goes into specifics about the days when wait times are worst, it says little about which locations are set to see traffic surges.

To fix this, TCS regularly releases information about upcoming holidays and where things are likely to get tight. 

In May, TCS released a map of the likely traffic hotspots for the Ascension (26th May) and Pentecost holidays (June 5th). 

As can be seen here, the roads around Zurich including the A1 and the A51 are particularly busy, as is the A1 near Geneva. 

The Gotthard Pass, often a site of traffic jams, is also set to be particularly busy. 

For holiday makers, the A13 in the east of the country is also tipped to see very high traffic volumes over the Ascension and Pentecost weeks. 

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

You can download the live road information for Switzerland as an app for iPhone and Android