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Swiss Snippets

Page last updated 27th November 2017

This page will be used for short news items relevant to Switzerland sent by members.

The newest item will be at the bottom of the page and most items will also be on the Society’s Facebook page.

Copyright © 2017 Swiss Railways Society

January 14th 2016:

Michael Donovan has sent us the following item:

SBB/CFF in favour of second Gotthard road tunnel

Basler Zeitung, 03 Jan 2016. The Swiss national rail network provider SBB/CFF has unexpectedly expressed its support for a second road tunnel to be built in Gotthard, Switzerland. It will support the project as long as the current capacity limitations are kept in place on both a national and international level. Swiss citizens will have the opportunity to vote in favour or against the second tunnel on 28 February 2016.

22nd January:

Malcolm Bulpitt has just learnt that SBB will be withdrawing all the Minibars from their services by the end 2017. There is much uproar in the Swiss media, but economically they are apparently a basket case even with the high prices they now charge. Even the Swiss are not prepared to pay over the odds when takeaway coffee, etc. is now available on most stations at a much lower unit price.

1st February:

The final breakthrough of the western bore of Switzerland's 15.4km Ceneri base tunnel was achieved at noon on January 21, with a deviation of only 2cm horizontally and 1cm vertically. http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/europe/final-breakthrough-in-ceneri-base-tunnel.html?channel=537.

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has announced it will invest SFr 37m in its workshops at Olten over the next two years to adapt the facility for the maintenance of SBB's growing fleet of multiple units. http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/europe/sbb-to-upgrade-olten-works.html?channel=537.

Swiss PostMail  recently unveiled its newly-commissioned fleet of Habbiillnss sliding wall bogie freight wagons at its Härkingen sorting centre in central Switzerland.  http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/rolling-stock/new-swiss-postal-wagons-unveiled.html?channel=529.

10th March :

A Swiss-Italian consortium has been awarded the £200m Glasgow subway trains deal. Details are here.

SBB are to pilot ticketless travel. http://www.thelocal.ch/20160307/swiss-trains-pilot-ticketless-fare-system.

21st April:

On Friday, 8 April 2016, at Swiss Federal Railways headquarters in Bern, Switzerland, UNIFE, the European Rail Industry Association, represented by UNIFE Director-General Philippe Citroën, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Cooperation with Swiss Federal Railways, represented by Mr Dietmar Gessner, Director of Strategy Sourcing (CFF-SBB-FFS Operating) and Mr Patrick Hadorn, Director of Quality, Safety & Environment (CFF-SBB-FFS Operating) on the advancement of IRIS.

The objective of this MoU is to promote mutually beneficial cooperation between the signatories on quality standards in the rail sector. This cooperation is expected to focus on increasing the exchange of knowledge and experience in a bilateral context on a number of relevant topics such as quality methods, operational and integration maturity levels, and risk transparency, among others specified in the MoU.

Andreas Perren informs us that the transN-line La Chaux-de-Fonds - Les Ponts-de-Martel will close on 30th April. From 1st May a bus will serve the villages along this line (the bus journey is much longer than the train). The traffic-government in Berne said there could no longer be a train service because there are more than 50 level crossing, mainly farm vehicle crossings, along the route. The authorities say it is trial for 3 months, but we all know what this means, that it is closing for ever. Andreas thinks it is the first time, that the Swiss traffic-government has closed a line with such little warning.

The first BLS Vectron has been completed. It can be seen here:http://www.railcolor.net/index.php?nav=1405330&id=8802&action=dview

28th April:

From The Railway Gazette:

Appenzeller Bahnen announced a SFr36m order for four Stadler Rail electric multiple-units on April 7, three days after a groundbreaking ceremony for the St Gallen – Riethüsli diversion which is being built as part of the St Gallen Durchmesserlinie project to enable through running between its Trogen and Appenzell routes. The 1·5 kV DC metre-gauge EMUs are to enter service in mid-2018 to replace the existing units used on the Gossau – Appenzell – Wasserauen route. There is an option for a fifth unit.

The three-car units will be 58·8 m long and 2 650 mm wide, with 161 standard and 15 first class seats, space for 123 standing passengers, and a multi-purpose area for bicycles, prams and luggage. They will have a maximum speed of 80 km/h, air-conditioning and step-free access including an accessible toilet.

Meanwhile, a ceremony on April 4 officially launched construction of the St Gallen – Riethüsli diversion including the 705 m Ruckhalde tunnel which will replace a steeply-graded section line which currently uses the Riggenbach-Klose rack system. Opening is scheduled for October 2018. The St Gallen Durchmesserlinie project will allow AB to operate a train every 15 min between Trogen, St Gallen and Applenzell. The infrastructure works are being funded by the cantons of St Gallen (SFr16m), Appenzell Ausserrhoden (SFr26m) and Appenzell Innerrhoden (SFr7m), with a further SFr41m from the federal government which gave the go-ahead in November 2015. The narrow gauge platforms at St Gallen station are being rebuilt, and the project also requires the lengthening of two passing loops, the provision of a passing loop and stop at St Gallen goods yard, and increasing the voltage on the 9·8 km Trogenerbahn from 1·0 kV to 1·5 kV DC.

8th August:

Current plans will see Lausanne (not the station area) to Villeneuve switch to ETCS on 23.04.2017 ( SBB Infrastructure - pdf).

For Stamp Collectors interested in the Gotthard.  https://www.post.ch/en/private/discover-stamps/collecting-stamps?shortcut=philatelie

Thanks to Boyd Misstear for the above items.

Still on the subject of postage stamps - The Swiss Post has decided to replace the existing standard stamps (showing different plants) within the next three years, starting in September 2016.  The remarkable thing is, that these standard stamps will show railway station buildings. The most used value of 0.85 CHF (B mail) will be Brig. CHF 1.00 (A mail) Luzern, 1.50 Bellinzona, 2.00 Genève. More stamps will appear during 2017 and 2018. https://www.magazine-focus-on-stamps.ch/current-issue/focus-on-stamps-3-2016/swiss-railway-stations/

Some more Swiss postage stamps featuring railway stations have been announced:

2017: Appenzell,  Interlaken Ost,  Scuol,  Zug,  Zürich
2018:  Alp Grüm,  Bern,  Fleurier, Huttwil, Zweisimmen

The 1.50 CHF will be the most familiar to members as that is the present cost of a “Priority” stamp to the UK.

11th August:

In conjunction with the award of the Anglia Franchise to  Abellio they have announced massive new rolling stock orders which include dual power Stadler FLIRT units. The order is for 383 Flirt electro-diesel and electric multiple-unit cars. The Stadler vehicles will need to be reduced in height and/or width compared with the Swiss units due to the smaller loading gauge.

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/stadler-and-bombardier-to-supply-trains-for-abellio-east-anglia-franchise.html .

1st September:

Neil Wheelwright has found the following about the Swiss Post testing robotic delivery:


25th October - updated 26th November :

The 2017 Swiss timetable is now available on-line.  This is the last year that a printed version of the Official complete timetable (Kursbuch) will be available.

The complete Swiss Kursbuch is available as PDFs in a ZIP file and can now be downloaded without login:

The file is updated daily with recent information.

26th November:

Don Newing reports that the first of the RhB Albula line driving trailers have been delivered.

The RhB diagrams for December 2016 to March 2017 are now available:


These show that the new fixed rake coaches will be hauled by Allegra units and not conventional locos as had been expected.  

4th December:

Michael Donovan reports that with just weeks to go before the start of full commercial operations, Switzerland’s Federal Transport Office (BAV) has approved the use of Bombardier Traxx locomotives in the Gotthard Base Tunnel following the installation of an ETCS software update. http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/freight/bombardier-locomotives-approved-for-use-in-gotthard-base-tunnel.html?channel=527

21st December:

Stadler are to supply the new fleet of trains for Merseyrail. http://www.globalrailnews.com/2016/12/19/merseyrail-to-get-new-train-fleet/.

28th December:

We have learnt that as well as rebuilding Nätschen station the MGB is planning a new covered station at Andermatt, this would involve the demolition of the present workshops. Details are here: http://blog.andermatt-swissalps.ch/de/2016/12/09/neuer-bahnhof-in-andermatt/ (in German).

17th February 2017:

From 13th February the majority of Crossrail trains will be operated by SBB Cargo (International) who will also operate some of the motive power on lease. A sale of the 4 Re 4/4 III to Widmer is still possible if a price can be agreed. Depots in Brig and Muttenz will close and drivers will be hired to SBB-C and possibly other operators. Crossrail will retain the status of a railway operator (EVU) and their safety certificate. Crossrail services operated by BLS or DB on their behalf will not change.

BLS has agreed to sell a 45% stake in its freight subsidiary BLS Cargo to SNCF Logistics, the French national railway’s freight business. The deal announced on February 16 is subject to regulatory approval. BLS would remain the majority shareholder with a 52% stake, and Ambrogio Group would retain its 3% holding. The corporate structure, Bern headquarters and existing management would remain unchanged, as would arrangements for the use of drivers, locomotives and workshops.

3rd March 2017:
Alan Snowdon has found the following film on Youtube of the BLS Lötschberg route dating from it’s opening in 1913.

9th May 2017:
This could only happen in Switzerland -  “The Local” reports that train drivers are to be “rewarded” with chocolate for stopping at the correct place in stations - https://www.thelocal.ch/20170505/swiss-train-drivers-to-get-chocolate-as-reward-for-being-precise.

12th May 2017:
The Glacier Express is introducing short sections: Travellers can now book parts of the route at a reduced surcharge and spend a wonderful couple of hours enjoying scenic highlights along the way. https://www.glacierexpress.ch/en/offers/short-sections/

The Swiss Post Office has released a 1 CHF stamp to commemorate the centenary of the Brienz Rothorn Bahn.

27th May 2017:

Don Newing reports from Railway Gazzette that the first of the 250 km/h low-floor trainsets for the Gotthard Base Tunnel was rolled out on 18 May following a ceremony at Stadler’s Bussang works. http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/250-kmh-low-floor-trainset-for-the-gotthard-base-tunnel-rolled-out.html.

RhB Historic now has a new website, http://www.historic-rhb.ch/ which includes a downloadable version of their annual magazine, “Die Bündner Kulturbahn”. RhB Historic inaugurated their new storage facility at Samedan on 29th April.

Detailed Information about the RhB, rolling stock, paint colours etc can be found at: http://www.rhb-info.ch/

http://www.sporenplan.nl/ is a Dutch website with track plans of the majority of Swiss stations,  locate the page with map of Europe on it and click on Switzerland,

 http://www.egtre.info/wiki/Switzerland has information on Lines with Obscure or Sparse  passenger services.

Swiss PostBus have purchased 19 double-decker buses from the UK, manufactured by Alexander Dennis. https://www.postauto.ch/en/news/first-postbuses-united-kingdom.

12th July 2017:

The following articles concern bids to the Federal  Ministry of Transport for future operating concessions in Switzerland.

BLS v SBB – An operating ‘Civil War’?

The opportunity given by the Federal Ministry of Transport to enter competing bids for future operating concessions (these require to be submitted in September 2017) has opened up a rivalry between the two main service providers. SBB is adamant that there is no room for competitors on its main routes. It has published analyses of profitability to show how tightly its operations are integrated in order to ensure productivity and cost control. However BLS, which once ran a considerable intercity passenger service of its own, has published a map of its new intentions. Since these extend from Romanshorn to Lausanne, as well as from La Chaux-de-Fonds and Basel to Brig and Interlaken, opportunity for conflict is apparent. Discussions broke off in spring 2017, but these were due to start again in June. In the interim BLS has been in conversation with the Cantons and Federal Authorities to test its position.

BLS 3 – Revised Operating Network

It is understood that with the advent of its fleet of new rolling stock  the BLS is investigating the potential for a major revision of its current RegioExpress network of services. The current plan is to link currently separate services, all to operate at a 30-minute frequency. The routes suggest are: Solothurn-Burgdorf-Bern-Fribourg-Bulle; Lausanne-Payerne-Murten-Bern-Langnau-Luzern; Le Locle-Neuchatel-Bern-Speiz-Zweisimmern or Brig/Domodossola; Biel/Bienne-Bern-Thun; Bern-Burgdorf-Langenthal-Olten; Zweisimmern-Spiez-Interlaken. 

SBB has announced that should its application to renew its concession be successful it will be willing to pass the operation of several InterRegional (IR) services to the Sudostbahn (SOB). It is reported that these are: Bern-Burgdorf-Zürich; Zürich-Chur; Basel-Luzern-Erstfeld; & Zürich-Erstfeld-Göschenen-Bellinzona. If the award decision is confirmed at the end of the year, and the transfer of these services to the SOB, does come to fruition this will impact on the moves by the BLS, reported above to seek an expansion of its operations. It could be seen that this is a ‘spoiling’ move by the SBB to trim the expansionary wings of the BLS and that the SBB feels it is safer to ‘get-into-bed’ with the smaller operator than risk losing larger parts of the network to its bigger rival. Railway politics appears to be alive and well in Switzerland! If the SOB does achieve this large expansion of their operations it is also reported that they would place an order for 20 additional FLIRT units from Stadller.

From the Swiss Rail Forum:

Stadler announced that they have limited their contract for the Altnerhein factory to 2020 and hope to open by then a new plant in St. Margrethen. This plan depends on decisions of the municipality and possibly the canton to allow the building. If it can be realised, only 50 of the now 950 workers would remain in Altenrhein.


23rd July 2017:

David Stevenson reports the following that “NIMBYS” don’t only exist in the UK:

Boats belonging to the Lake Zurich Navigation Company (ZSG) will no longer be able to sound their horn on arrival and departure from the quay after a local resident complained at the noise. The company last week abandoned what it called a 50-year tradition after a man objected to the Federal transport office (BAV), reported Blick newspaper.Speaking to the paper, ZSG spokeswoman Conny Hürlimann said BAV had then written to ZSG to say it was not a legal requirement for the boats to sound their horns at the quay and they should therefore refrain. Horns should only be sounded in a dangerous situation, for example if a swimmer is too close to the ferry.Hürlimann said employees were “surprised” at the outcome.“This is a longstanding tradition that has disappeared,” she said. Confirming the story, Hürlimann added that the company was "quite sad" about the situation and that there was little hope of overturning the decision.


30th July 2017:

The second series of Swiss postage stamps showing Railway stations has been announced these are:

1.10 ChF Appenzell (Inland Economy 101-250 g)
1.30  ChF Zug (Inland Priority 101-250 g)
1.40 ChF Interlaken Ost (Europe Economy)
1.80 ChF Scuol-Tarasp (Inland Economy large)

10th August 2017:

Neil Wheelwright has found the following:

The longest suspension bridge in the world was inaugurated on July 29th in Randa, Hikers can now cross the Europaweg (Europe Bridge) which connects Grächen and Zermatt and measures nearly 500m. Zermatt Tourist Board says it is the longest in the world, hanging at a heady 85m above the Grabengufer ravine. The Europaweg replaces another bridge which was closed in 2010 after it was damaged by falling rocks.  http://www.euronews.com/2017/07/31/worlds-longest-pedestrian-suspension-bridge-opens-in-switzerland.

For a drones eye view: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/a-drone-s-eye-view/43373620.

24th August 2017:

Nick Potter reports that BLS has bid to take over the Simplon car shuttle service from SBB in December. SBB has announced that it does not intend to renew it’s concession: http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/bls-bids-to-take-over-simplon-car-shuttle.html.

Swiss Rail Forum reports on concerns about the structural integrity of the Stadler built KISS units following an accident in Linz, Austria. A new Westbahn unit, 4 car 4110 010, was in collision with a Cargoserv ore train hauled by Vectron 193 267.The leading car was destroyed by the impact and the driver seriously injured. The Linz Police stated they believe the cause to be the Westbahn train passing a signal at danger. The Westbahn unit was on a test run. The maximum permitted speed in the area is reportedly 40 km/h. Details (in German) and photos are here:



26th August 2017:

Bill Slater has found a link on the German Drehscheibe web forum  that  changes are to be made to the GEX offering next year.
On Wednesday 23 Aug MGB and RhB announced that they had set up a subsidiary company Glacier Express AG with a 50% share each. HQ will be Andermatt. The object of the exercise is to refresh the entire product to arrest falling passenger numbers, (260,000 in 2008 down to 188,000 in 2015) and improve financial performance.
There will be timetable changes.  There will only be two return journeys over the whole line in summer.  One extra train pair will run St Moritz - Brig and another Zermatt - Chur so that there will be four return journeys a day over the Oberalp Pass.  Of the three GEX's between Chur and St Moritz only one will convey RE carriages, the other two will have a dedicated path.  Six rakes will be needed.
Reasons for above timetable changes given as:

- An offer for travellers who don't want to spend 8 hours on the go.
- Possibility for people to travel from either end to Andermatt, go to Zürich or Luzern in afternoon to sightsee, eat or shop(!) and return later.
- Possibility for travel companies to build in a GEX trip on arrival day if destination is Zermatt or St Moritz.
- Possibility for travel companies to build in afternoon GEX itinerary.
- More peaceful journey experience for those who still want the full fat 8 hours.

Other changes include the introduction of an Excellence Class. Two cars will be revamped as this new class.  They will also rebuild the Panoramabar, revamp first class to provide a stronger differentiation to second class as well as a refresh of second class.
Finally they are going to experiment with a photo stop at Nätschen.  This station is currently being rebuilt with extra platform faces and an underpass to improve access to the skiing areas.
Here is a link to the RhB background document that contains a schematic of the new timetable and some artists impressions of the revamped cars.  The Excellence Class cars will apparently have only 20 seats so presumably 1 + 1.

13th September 2017:

From the Swiss Rail forum:

BLS has announced  that they will apply for a long-distance passenger concession for the following lines:
Basel - Bern - Brig/Interlaken Ost
RE Bern - Olten
RE Bern - Biel
RE Bern - Neuchâtel - Le Locle

They want to offer ticket sale on the trains, WLAN and catering with a start date of December 2019.
SBB has applied for the same lines so the Federal Office of Transport has to decide.

BLS operated long distance trains in cooperation with SBB until 2004. These were Thun - Brig and Thun - Interlaken Ost. BLS already then had the idea to operate these trains over the full distance but SBB wasn't willing to let the concession to BLS. They then agreed that SBB take over long distance traffic from BLS and BLS was allowed to operate S-Bahn Bern and RE to Lucerne under its own concession. BLS sold their EW IV to SBB and acquired SBB's EW III fleet including some Re 420 for the REs. The Re 465 went to freight duties.

RE Bern - Neuchâtel - La Chaux-de-Fonds is now a BLS concession but it has been decided that there will no longer be a subsidy for this line. This is why BLS needs something like Basel - Brig/Interlaken to cover the losses on other lines. The idea of long-distance concessions is to contain a bundle of lines which allow them to run them without subsidies. But
it is not normally possible to take out one line, either the profits would be too high or there would be losses.

Apart from BLS also SOB is interested in operating long distance lines but they aren’t applying for their own concession as they have an agreement with SBB to operate trains over the old Gotthard line and some others.

24th August - updated 5th September 2017, 29th September and 23rd October:

The main line between Rastatt and Baden-Baden the line to Basle re-opened on 2nd October.

Details from Railway Gazette are:



Bryan Stone has added a lot of information concerning the implications of the line closure on the freight network here.

Here is a copy of an open letter from the freight operators concerning the lessons that must be learned from this disaster.


23rd October:

Agreement has been reached between the Jungfrau Bahnen and the Kleine Scheidegg Hotels over their objection to the V-Bahn project. If the other objections can be overcome work will start in Summer 2018 with a target completion of the end of 2019 for the new Männlichenbahn and the end of 2019 for the “Jungrau Express”. More information (In German) here.

Andreas Parren has said that the new 10 ChF note features Railways and Watchmaking with a list of tunnels and their length.

19th November:

RhB have started work on double tracking the line between Samedan and Bever. This will allow the Albula and Engadine lines to be operated independently.  http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/rhaetische-bahn-launches-double-tracking-project.html

27th November:

RhB Ge6/6 I No. 414 (Baby Croc.) Is at present having a major overhaul at Lanquart works. From May 2018 two services a day between Davos Platz and Filisur will be diagrammed with a Baby Croc. There will not be a supplement.  Full details here (in German).

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