World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Rail transport in Switzerland

Article Id: WHEBN0000229912
Reproduction Date:

Title: Rail transport in Switzerland  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Swiss Federal Railways, Rail transport in Europe, Rail transport in France, Abkhazian Railway, Rail transport by country
Collection: Rail Transport in Switzerland, Transport in Switzerland
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rail transport in Switzerland

National railway Swiss Federal Railways
Major operators Swiss Federal Railways
Rhaetian Railway
System length
Total 4,641 km (2,883.8 mi)[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]
Electrified 4,641 km (2,883.8 mi)[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]
High-speed 80 km (49.7 mi)
Track gauge
Main 1,435 mm/​4 ft 8 12 in standard gauge
High-speed standard gauge
1,000 mm metre gauge 865.7 km (537.9 mi)[5][6][7][8][9][10]
800 mm 55.2 km (34.3 mi)
750 mm 13 km (8.1 mi)
1,200 mm 1.964 km (1.2 mi)[9]
Main 15 kV 16.7 Hz
standard gauge 3,773.4 km (2,344.7 mi)[1][11][3][4][8][9]
metre gauge 865.7 km (537.9 mi)[5][6][7][10][8][9]
No. tunnels 612[1][11][5][6][7][8][9][10][12]
Tunnel length 439.4 km (273.03 mi)[1][11][3][5][6][7][9][10][12]
Longest tunnel Lötschberg Base Tunnel 34.567 km (21.48 mi)
No. bridges 7558[1][11][3][5][6][7][8][9][10][12]
No. stations 1338[1][11][4][5][6][7][8][9]
Highest elevation Jungfraujoch railway station
 at 3,454 metres (11,332 ft)
Lowest elevation Giubiasco
 at 242 metres (794 ft)
Swiss railway network

The Swiss rail network is noteworthy for its density,[13][14] its coordination between services, its integration with other modes of transport,[15][16] and a thriving domestic and trans-alp freight system. This is made necessary by strong regulations on truck transport,[17] and is enabled by properly coordinated intermodal logistics.[18] Switzerland is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC Country Code for Switzerland is 85.[19]


  • Standard-gauge lines 1
    • Swiss Federal Railways 1.1
    • BLS 1.2
    • SOB 1.3
    • Rail links to other countries 1.4
  • Narrow-gauge lines 2
    • RhB and MGB 2.1
    • Further narrow gauge lines 2.2
    • Narrow gauge links to adjacent countries 2.3
  • Urban rail 3
    • Trams 3.1
    • S-bahn 3.2
  • History 4
  • Integration of services 5
    • Between rail services 5.1
    • Between modes of transport 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • Bibliography 7.2
  • External links 8

Standard-gauge lines

Regional train near the Rhine Falls

Three quarters of the Swiss rail network is at standard gauge, comprising 3,652 km, administered mostly by two companies. Important railway stations are the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the Basel SBB railway station and the Bern railway station.

Swiss Federal Railways

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS) is the largest railway company in Switzerland and handles the majority of national and international traffic. It operates the main east-west track in the central valley area and the north-south routes through the Alps via the Gotthard Rail Tunnel (Lugano to Zurich line) and the Simplon Tunnel (Domodossola to Lausanne-Bern-Geneva line).[1]

  • Total route length: 3,173 km (1,971.6 mi).[20]


BLS (Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon) is the other main company, with 10% of the standard gauge network. It manages the other major Alpine route Bern-Brig via the Lötschberg Base Tunnel and connection at Brig with SBB's Simplon Tunnel to Italy.[2]

  • Total route length: 436 km (270.9 mi).[11]


The Schweizerische Südostbahn AG (SOB) operates on 147 km (91.3 mi) (of which 123 km (76.4 mi) are their own) between Romanshorn on Lake Constance to St. Gallen. And further via Herisau to the Toggenburg valley in northeast Switzerland. Via Wattwil and Rapperswil SOB travels the track over the Seedamm on Lake Zurich and finally over the high moorland of Rothenthurm down to Arth-Goldau in Central Switzerland.

The named train Voralpen Express (VAE, Pre-Alpine Express) is jointly operated by the Südostbahn and the SBB. It runs every hour between Lucerne and St. Gallen.[3]

Rail links to other countries

  • Standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
    • Austria — same voltage 15 kV, 16.7 Hz AC
    • France — voltage change 15 kV, 16.7 Hz AC / 25 kV, 50 Hz AC or 1,500 V DC
    • Germany — same voltage 15 kV, 16.7 Hz AC
    • Italy — voltage change 15 kV, 16.7 Hz AC / 3 kV DC
    • Liechtenstein — same voltage 15 kV, 16.7 Hz AC

Although both Austria and Germany use the same voltage as Switzerland, only specially adapted trains are able to run to and from those two countries, because narrower pantographs are used in Switzerland.

The German national railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) owns cross-border lines from the German border to Basel Badischer Bahnhof station, which is also operated by DB. It also owns and operates an east-west line across the Canton of Schaffhausen that forms a link in the largely German Upper Rhine Railway, and jointly owns Schaffhausen railway station with the Swiss Federal Railways.

The DB operates longer-distance trains from Germany to Swiss cities, including ICE services to Basel and Zürich.

Narrow-gauge lines

RhB and MGB

The Bernina Express travels on the highest railway transversal in the Alps

The Rhaetian Railway (RhB) is the longest 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge railway in Switzerland, linking Disentis, Davos and St. Moritz in the high Alps with Chur, a rail junction with the SBB. It passes through the upper Rhine Valley and several side valleys, as well as the Engadin, the upper valley of the Inn River. The Bernina Pass is the highest point on this line, at 2253 m. Total length: 366 kilometres.[5]

The Furka-Oberalp-Bahn (FO) is a 1,000 mm railway in the high southern alps. Its name refers to two passes, the Furka Pass and the Oberalp Pass. The Furka pass lies at the upper end of the Rhône valley. The Oberalppass is the highest point on this line at 2033 metres, and lies at the upper end of the Rhine valley. The total length of the railway is 100 kilometres, and the line runs from Disentis to Brig. Brig is a rail junction with the SBB and BLS and sits at the north end of the Simplon tunnel on the Milan to Lausanne SBB line and Milan to Bern BLS line.

The Brig-Visp-Zermatt (BVZ) railway, commonly known as the BVZ Zermatt-Bahn, is a short line between Brig and Zermatt. It passes through the Visp and Matt Valleys, tributaries of the Rhône. Total length: 43 kilometres.

In 2003, the FO and BVZ merged to form the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn (MGB).[6]

The Glacier Express (GEX) runs on the combined three line route St. Moritz-Chur-Disentis-Andermatt-Brig-Visp-Zermatt. A one-day trip in panoramic-view cars takes tourists from St. Moritz/Davos to Zermatt, or vice versa, through some of the most spectacular scenery of the Alps.

Further narrow gauge lines

The Chemins de fer du Jura (CJ), the railways of the Jura canton in northern Switzerland, is an 85-kilometre rail network of which 74 km is metre gauge, the remaining 11 km being standard gauge. It connects La Chaux-de-Fonds to Glovelier and Tramelan, both via Le Noirmont.[8]

The Appenzeller Bahnen (AB) with its total of 77 km of mainly metre gauge tracks just recently combined (2006) the earlier separate Trogenerbahn from St. Gallen to Trogen, the standard gauge railway from Rorschach, Switzerland to Heiden, Switzerland, the short track of the funiculair from Rheineck to Walzenhausen, as well as the previous Appenzeller Bahnen. The AB connects main spots within both Appenzells with St. Gallen and Altstätten in the Rhine Valley.[9]

The Gornergratbahn climbs for 9 kilometres from an elevation of 1600 metres near the Zermatt station of the Zermatt RR to a 3000-metre high-end station on the shoulder of the Monte Rosa Mountain. The entire route is a rack-and-pinion railway.

On the train to Wengen

The Berner Oberland Bahn is a 24-kilometre line from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. It begins at Interlaken Ost station and divides at Zweilütschinen, about 10 kilometres south of Interlaken. The western branch leads to Lauterbrunnen, while the eastern branch leads to Grindelwald. It is possible to make a loop by taking the Lauterbrunnen branch and returning via the Grindelwald branch. The two branches are connected by the Wengernalp Bahn.

The Wengernalpbahn is a 19-kilometre line from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald, leading over the Eiger ridge at the junction station of Kleine Scheidegg. In the winter, this junction is a ski resort served by many lifts and trails, as well as the rail line. Skiers can ride the train from the valleys below to return to the top of the runs.

The Jungfraubahn, which is also rack-and-pinion throughout, starts at Kleine Scheidegg and runs 9 kilometres through tunnels in the Eiger and Mönch, leading to the "Jungfraujoch," a saddle between the Mönch and the Jungfrau summits. At the saddle are a visitor centre and an observatory. The Aletsch Glacier, largest in Europe, runs to the south toward the Rhône valley.

The Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren (BLM) is 6 km long, divided into two independent parts, the first part being a cable car (which runs above the old funicular railway, which was replaced in 2006), the second an adhesion railway.

The Martigny–Châtelard railway is 19 km long, with one rack railway section, in the canton of Valais. It connects with the Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine railway in France, the joint services being marketed as Mont-Blanc Express.

A Golden Pass train near Gstaad

The Montreux-Oberland Bernois (MOB) line runs 75 kilometres from Montreux on Lake Geneva to Zweisimmen, with a connecting line to Lenk in the Simmental. The section from Montreux to Zweisimmen, approximately 63 kilometres long, is part of the "Golden Pass Panorama" trip from Montreux to Lucerne, a trip which combines rides on the MOB, the BLS and the Zentralbahn (zb).[10][12]

From Interlaken, the narrow-gauge Brünigbahn section of the Zentralbahn (zb) runs 74 kilometres further to Lucerne. It skirts Lake Brienz and passes through the range of mountains to the north of the lake via Brünig pass, and then drops into the Sarner Aa valley to Lucerne. The zb also runs the line between Lucerne and Engelberg.[7]

At Brienz the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB), a steam-hauled rack railway, ascends to near the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn.

Narrow gauge links to adjacent countries

1,000 mm 1k 3 ft 3 38 in metre gauge

Urban rail


There are trams operating on nine systems in seven Swiss cities. Street-running tramways are nearly all 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in). The Chemin de fer Bex–Villars–Bretaye (BVB) in Bex is more of a mixed interuban light rail line connected to a rack railway but it does have some street running portions, particularly in Bex where the BVB operates along the right of way of a tramway system originally built in the 1890s.

City System Start of
Gauge notes
Basel Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe (BVB)[21] 6 May 1892[21]   8 lines
Baselland Transport (BLT)[21] 6 October 1902 metre gauge 4 lines, 65.2 km (40.5 mi), 100 trams, serves suburbs
Bern[21] Stadtische Verkehrsbetriebe Bern 1 July 1902    
Bex Bex–Villars–Bretaye railway (BVB) 1898 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge connects to rack railway in Villars-sur-Ollon
Geneva[21] Transports Publics Genevois 22 September 1894    
Lausanne Tramway du sud-ouest lausannois 2 June 1991    
Neuchâtel[21] Tramways de Neuchâtel 16 May 1897    
Zürich[21] Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ) 8 March 1894    
Stadtbahn Glattal 10 December 2006    


In German-speaking parts of Switzerland, the frequent town to and from city commuter service known as the S-Bahn in Germany or S-Linien in Switzerland has been built in several cities such as the Zürich S-Bahn and the Basel Regional S-Bahn.

In French-speaking parts of Switzerland, the service is known as the Réseau Express Régional such as in the Léman RER.


The construction and operation of Swiss railways during the 19th century was carried out by private railways. The first internal line was a 16 km line opened from Zürich to Baden in 1847. By 1860 railways connected western and northeastern Switzerland. The first Alpine railway to be opened under the Gotthard Pass in 1882. A second alpine line was opened under the Simplon Pass in 1906.

In 1901 the major railways were nationalised to form Swiss Federal Railways. During the first half of the twentieth century they were electrified and slowly upgraded. After the Second World War rail rapidly lost its share of the rail market to road transport as car ownership rose and more roads were built. From 1970 the Federal Government has become more involved in upgrading the railways, especially in urban areas and on trunk routes under the Rail 2000 project. In addition, two major trans-alpine routes—the Gotthard Railway and the Lötschberg approach to the Simplon Tunnel—are being rebuilt under the AlpTransit project.

Integration of services

Between rail services

Example of integrated timetables between interregional and regional services on the Swiss network. The two trains are programmed to meet in the hub of Geneva at 15:30, sharing a platform, to minimise transfer times.

Services on the Swiss railway are integrated with each other and with other forms of public transport. Unlike its European neighbours, Switzerland has not developed a comprehensive high-speed rail network,[22] with the running speed on its one stretch[23] of relatively high-speed line being 200 km/h.[24] Instead the priority is not so much the speeding up of trains between cities, but the reduction of connection times through the nodal system.[25] Journey times on main lines between hubs are multiples of 15 minutes so that on the hour or half-hour all trains stand in the main stations at the same time, thus minimising connection times. Indeed the above-mentioned Rothrist-Mattstetten line reduces journey times from Bern to Zurich from 72 minutes to 57 minutes,[26] in keeping with the clock face scheduling.

Between modes of transport

A postal bus and regional train wait outside the railway station in Bex for the arrival of the interregional Brig-Geneva train.

Rail timetables are integrated[27] with the extensive[28] network of postal buses (fr. Car Postal ger. Postauto) which serve both plain and high mountain villages. For example on postal bus line 12.381[29] the 10:35 from the mountain village of Les Haudères is planned to arrive in the regional city of Sion at 11:20 where a train departs the station (located next to the bus station) at 11:24 for Visp. Indeed it is a familiar sight to for the postal cars to be already lined up outside the station for the arriving train. From this perspective, the Swiss rail network functions as the core of a wider public transport network.

See also

Railways of Switzerland



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Die SBB in Zahlen und Fakten. 2014" (PDF) (Jahresbericht) (in German). Bern, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Railways. p. S31. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  2. ^ a b c "Facts at a glance". Bern, Switzerland: BLS AG. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Die SOB in Zahlen" (in German). St. Gallen, Switzerland: Schweizerische Südostbahn AG. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Bahn S4/S10" (in German). Zurich, Switzerland: Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn SZU AG. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Profil 2014. Faszinierend anders unterwegs" (PDF) (in German). Chur, Switzerland: RhB Rhätische Bahn. 2015. p. 27. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Betriebsdaten" (in German). Brig, Switzerland: MGB matterhorn gotthard bahn. 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "zb Geschäftsbericht 2014" (PDF) (Annual Report) (in German). Stansstad (NW), Switzerland: zb Zentralbahn AG. 2015. pp. 31–33. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Die CJ in Zahlen & Geschäftsbericht 2013" (Annual Report) (in French and German). Tavannes, JU, Switzerland: Chemins de fer du Jura. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "AB Fahren, Geschäftsbericht 2013" (PDF) (Annual Report) (in German). Herisau, Switzerland: Appenzeller Bahnen AG. 2014. p. 32. Retrieved 2015-04-12. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "2014 Rapport de gestion" (PDF) (Annual Report) (in French). Montreux (VD), Switzerland: Compagnie du Chemin de fer Montreux - Oberland bernois SA. 2015. p. 4. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "BLS AG Infrrastructure - Key Figures". Bern, Switzerland: BLS AG. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  12. ^ a b c d "2014 Rapport de gestion" (PDF) (Annual Report) (in French). Montreux (VD), Switzerland: Transports Montreux - Vevey - Riviera SA. 2015. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  13. ^ "2"3000km for 41 000km (PDF). Osaka-sandai. p. 6. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  14. ^ Keiser, Andreas (19 July 2012). "Rail network modernises to stay on track". Berne, Switzerland: Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  15. ^ "Swiss Rail Passes and Transportation Information - Switzerland Trains". Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  16. ^ "The Swiss Travel System: Trains, Boats, Buses, Cable Cars". Gemü Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  17. ^ "Railway upgrades include no fast track - SWI". Berne, Switzerland: 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  18. ^ Anitra Green (20 September 2012). "Swiss operators optimise short-haul railfreight". International Railway Journal. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Inc. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  19. ^ "UIC country codes, Leaflet 920-14" (XLS or XML) (in German, French, and English). Paris, France: International Union of Railways. 18 April 2014. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  20. ^ "Infrastructures". Bern, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Railways. 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-11. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Buckley, Richard (2000). Tramways and Light Railways of Switzerland and Austria. Light Rail Transit Association.  
  22. ^ "Railway upgrades include no fast track - SWI". 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  23. ^ Called the Rothrist-Mattstetten line
  24. ^ "Rail 2000: le nouveau tronçon Rothrist - Mattstetten permet de relier Zurich à Berne en moins d'une heure - Le 19h30 - TV - Play RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse". Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  25. ^ "Comparative Analysis of Swiss and Japanese Trunk Railway Network Structures" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  26. ^ "Learning From Swiss Transport Policy" (PDF). p. 29. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  27. ^ "Learning From Swiss Transport Policy" (PDF). p. 36. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  28. ^ "Learning From Swiss Transport Policy" (PDF). p. 18. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  29. ^ "Sion-Les Hauderes timetable" (PDF).\accessdate=2015-04-17. 


  • Organ, John (2003). Swiss Narrow Gauge: featuring steam in the Alps. Narrow Gauge Branch Lines series. Midhurst, West Sussex, UK: Middleton Press.  
  • Organ, John (2012). Northern Alpine Narrow Gauge: Interlaken to Puchberg. Narrow Gauge Branch Lines series. Midhurst, West Sussex, UK: Middleton Press.  
  • Organ, John (2012). Southern Alpine Narrow Gauge: Montreux to Tirano. Narrow Gauge Branch Lines series. Midhurst, West Sussex, UK: Middleton Press.  

External links

  • Swiss narrow gauge railways
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.