All you need to know about SBB's massive expansion plans for 2050

All you need to know about SBB's massive expansion plans for 2050

At a press conference last week, the government announced its commitment to the “Perspective Rail 2050” plan to improve the public transport network in Switzerland. The new plan will see Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) expand its services over short, medium and long distances, with a focus on replacing driving and flying as the primary mode of transport.

Railways in Switzerland to expand massively by 2050

At a press event on August 16, Swiss Transport Minister Albert Rösti confirmed that the Federal Council would adopt the “Perspective Rail 2050 (Perspektive BAHN 2050)” strategy. “The new longer-term strategy defines how the railway expansion should proceed… This should also promote a reduction in fossil energy. Road and rail traffic must complement each other,” he told the media. 

For the Federal Council, Swiss railways should continue to expand on lines between places of work and residence by upgrading local train stations and providing more S-Bahn services. In regard to long-distance travel between cities, the government thinks that SBB should focus on supplanting driving and flying on routes where the train is less popular - likely by increasing services and making them faster.

What new expansion projects are planned for Swiss railways?

The Federal Council is therefore asking parliament for 2,6 billion more francs to make BAHN 2050 a reality. Alongside an expected increase in the number of rail services on the existing network, many new construction projects have been unveiled:

New eight-kilometre tunnel in Canton Vaud

First, the Federal Council has proposed that a nine-kilometre tunnel be constructed between Morges and Perroy, Canton Vaud. This would allow more trains to run between Lausanne and Geneva and provide a backup should something go wrong on the existing line.

Green light for new Lötschberg base tunnel

Then, the government announced that a new tube will be added to the 14-kilometre-long Lötschberg base tunnel - the line that cuts through the mountains and connects Canton Bern with the main valley in Valais. Federal authorities said that the new tunnel would reduce delays and allow them to refurbish the existing tunnel without inconveniencing passengers.

Third longest rail tunnel in Switzerland gets federal backing

Finally, the Federal Council has put its weight behind the new Grimsel tunnel between Oberwald (Valais) and Meiringen (Bern) - set to be the third longest rail tunnel in Switzerland. Parliament has until 2026 to decide whether to follow through on the plans.

Swiss government backs 300 new rail projects

Alongside the new projects, previously announced plans - around 300 in total - have also been backed or expanded on (although some have also been delayed). Here are some of the main projects:

New rail tunnels in Switzerland

New tunnels, essential for rail transport given the landscape, have been approved or planned between the following locations:  

  • Olten and Aarau at Eppenberg
  • Zurich and Winterthur at Dietlikon / Brüttisellen / Bassersdorf 
  • Zurich and Zug at Zimmerberg (delayed)
  • Ligerz and Twann

Swiss Federal Council approves expansion of rail lines

Other rail lines are also set to be expanded in the following locations:

  • Laufental
  • Chur
  • Lucerne
  • Lugano and Bioggio (new line)
  • Simplon line (Vevey to Leuk)
  • Renens
  • Bellinzona

Major renovations expected at Swiss train stations

Finally, the following stations are set to be expanded or renovated:

  • Basel Main Station
  • Liestal
  • Bern (delayed)
  • Olten 
  • Lenzburg
  • Zurich Stadelhofen (delayed)
  • Winterthur
  • St. Gallen
  • Wil
  • Geneva (delayed)
  • Lausanne (delayed)
  • Fribourg

In all, despite recent cuts to funding, the Federal Council is still expected to spend 27 billion francs on expanding the rail network by 2035. 

SBB expansion will mean disruption to services

In concluding the press conference, Rösti confirmed that while the expansion will bring benefits to the population, ongoing construction work will result in "temporary timetable deterioration, delays and individual train cancellations" like those announced by SBB earlier in August. For more information about the proposals, check out the official press release (in German).

Thumb image credit: Taljat David /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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