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TRAIN TRAVEL

How Switzerland wants to improve regional train links

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

How Switzerland wants to improve regional train links
Government will expand regional train network. Image by Andi Graf from Pixabay

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

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

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

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Cost:

Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information:

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