Plan for new Geneva - London rail service gathers momentum

Plan for new Geneva - London rail service gathers momentum

With plans for new rail links between Switzerland and the United Kingdom gathering steam, a new proposal has taken to the tracks pushing for the public transport service to be extended to Geneva. The petition argued that the direct service is essential in light of the climate crisis, and makes more financial sense than direct services from other Swiss cities.

Geneva - London direct train proposal earns rapid support

In a statement, campaign creator Nadine McCormick confirmed that the petition for a direct rail route between Geneva and London had garnered 4.900 signatures in less than a month. Once it reaches the 5.000 mark, the proposal will be sent to the cantonal governments of Vaud and Geneva, and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).

Under the plans, a new direct rail service would run straight from Geneva to the British capital through the Channel Tunnel. While the proposal did not explicitly state whether the service would stop in any other Swiss cities or those in France, the route is estimated to take five hours and 12 minutes - roughly the same time as flying once all parts of the journey are considered. It would also be at least two and a half hours quicker than the current rail route, which involves a transfer in Paris.

Lawmakers argued Geneva to London train makes more sense

Currently, both the Swiss government and SBB are pushing to establish a new direct train between Switzerland and London. However, up until now the majority of proposals have involved trains beginning and ending in either Basel or Zurich. Both Genevan and Vaudois lawmakers have argued that current plans make little sense, citing a 2021 SBB report that found that a direct route from Geneva to the UK would attract more passengers.

In the proposal, McCormick argued that a Geneva to the UK route made more sense considering passenger demand. In 2019, 1,15 million passengers travelled on the air route between Geneva Airport and the various airports in London, compared to the 1,1 million who flew between Zurich, Basel and London. 14.000 British nationals also hold residence permits in Geneva and Vaud, compared to 9.000 in Canton Zurich.

McCormick added that, as major hubs for banking, finance and tourism, it made sense to build up transport links between Geneva and London. Finally, she argued that trains are more eco-friendly - emitting around 15 times less carbon per passenger than planes - and are a more stress-free way to travel. 

When will the direct Switzerland - UK train be launched?

So when will we all be able to pack our bags and head off on a rail-based long weekend to London? While the Swiss government put its full support behind the project in November 2023, SBB has admitted that several obstacles remain.

Speaking to 20 Minuten, SBB spokesperson Frédéric Revaz said that they are “determining whether such a connection can be made, from which stations, under what conditions and within what time frame.” He said that the main issues that the company faces include reaching agreements with French and British railways, determining which company would run the route, getting permission for Swiss trains to run in the Channel Tunnel, and planning how passport and customs checks would be carried out in Switzerland.

However, Revaz assured that SBB's plans to establish the route are “entirely in line with the [Geneva] citizens’ petition.” The company is expected to reveal when the route will come into operation by the end of this year.

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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