Train travel For Members

How Switzerland wants to improve regional train links

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 23 Jun, 2022 Updated Thu 23 Jun 2022 12:02 CEST
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Government will expand regional train network. Image by Andi Graf from Pixabay

In its new strategy, Swiss government wants to focus on the development of its regional railway system. This is what it plans to do.

Switzerland has a dense rail network, with 5,200 km of tracks crisscrossing the small country width- and length-wise, as well as upwards to the Alpine peaks and under its tunnels.

Improvements to the system are deemed necessary in a country where public transport is widely used: according to official data, “the Swiss travel more by train than any other nation in the world, clocking up an average of 2,400 km per person every year".

While the 44 InterCity (IC) trains, which connect the country’s major agglomerations, are still the backbone of the network, the government wants to focus on the development and expansion of the regional traffic, according to Transport Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who announced on Wednesday the “reorientation of strategy in the development of rail”.

“The goal is no longer to shorten the journey between Zurich and Bern by another five minutes, but to look at where there are most people who could use the train more,” she said.

"Future development stages will improve the rail offer primarily over short and medium distances".

Concretely, this means increased regional traffic and the development of stations in the suburbs to accommodate more InterRegio (IR) and RegioExpress (RE) trains.

READ MORE: Where are Switzerland’s best and worst train stations?

Unlike long-distance ICs, which mainly stop in cities, regional trains usually run on shorter routes and make more frequent stops at smaller, suburban locations.

For instance, while an IC train between Geneva and Lausanne makes two stops and runs 35 minutes, its RE counterpart on the same route stops at six stations and runs 48 minutes. This means more passengers can get on and off at smaller stations.

For this reason, “the Federal Council takes into account that the greatest potential for transfer [from car] to rail lies in the connections between the regional centers and the agglomerations. In concrete terms, this means increasing regional traffic, and developing stations in the suburbs », the Federal Department of Transport said in a press release, though it has not specified which regions will benefit the most from this project.

What else is the new strategy calling for to improve rail travel?

In a project to be gradually implemented over the next 28 years (which is why it is called RAIL-2050), the government is planning to use longer and double-decker trains, offer more frequent connections, and occasionally reduce journey times.

The latter will be “carried out mainly where rail is not competitive with road in terms of travel time », including on the Bern – Lausanne line.

The government is also planning to complete the development of over 28 km of double tracks in Lotschberg base tunnel between Ferden (Valais) and Mitholz (Bern).  

This article has useful information along with interactive maps showing how far you can travel from every Swiss city via direct train:

Travel: This interactive map shows direct trains from every Swiss city




Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/06/23 12:02

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