Bern's new underground station is millions of francs over budget, say auditors
A new report by the Federal Audit Office (SFAO) has revealed that the new Regionalverkehr Bern-Solothurn (RBS) train station in Bern has run tens of millions of francs over budget. The SFAO found that Swiss public transport providers had “significantly underestimated” the complexity of building the new station underneath the de-facto capital of Switzerland.
New platforms to be built underneath Bern's main station
The "Zukunft Bahnhof Bern" is one of the largest public construction projects in the country. Originally costing around 1 billion francs in total, the project is designed to update and upgrade the main station in Bern and the roads around the area, and build a new underground station for RBS trains from Bern to Solothurn.
The old RBS station, on the eastern side of the main station, was built in the 1960s and is no longer large enough to accommodate the huge number of workers, tourists and families that use the line every day. The new RBS platforms will be much larger and will be situated 20 metres below the mainline platforms used for travel between Swiss cities.
New RBS station in Bern delayed until 2029
However, once construction started in 2017 - with a completion date of 2025 - the project soon began to run into problems. In 2019, the opening date was moved to 2027, and in February 2022, authorities announced that the expansion would not be completed until 2029, and would cost an extra 200 million francs, to be paid through public taxes.
At RBS’s request, the SFAO started to investigate the project in the autumn of 2021. In their new report, given to Blick on September 6, the audit office said that RBS had "significantly underestimated" how hard the project would be to complete. Short-notice changes to the project and organisational issues were common in the early stages, RBS’s “risk management [was] not yet strictly and consistently managed and there is a lack of project-related quality management,” according to Blick.
Cost of the project ballooned to over 1,2 billion francs
Along with the cost of upgrading the main station, the price of the RBS project alone has increased from 614 to 731 million francs. The SFAO concluded that while the cost rises "cannot be conclusively explained at the time of the audit," the total cost of "fees" related to the project has doubled since 2016.
In response to the report, RBS told Blick that efforts to reorganise the project in 2018 were successful and remain stable and in place to this day. The company said that the SFAO recommendations have either been implemented or will be implemented in the future.