SBB to offer more services instead of reducing journey times
Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has announced their vision for what public transport in Switzerland will look like in the future. In a major shift, the government and SBB have decided to move away from trying to cut journey times and instead focus on connecting Swiss cities with rural areas.
Frequency over speed: the new plan for Swiss railways
In a statement, the Federal Council announced the new "BAHN 2050" plan for Switzerland. In it, the government confirmed that it would be focusing on improving rail journeys over short to medium distances. This will include more S-Bahn services around Zurich, Basel, Geneva and other cities, and improved connections between said cities and more rural stations. Interregional (IR) and RegioExpress (RE) rail services will also be expanded.
This is a major shift from the previous plan for 2050, which focused on speeding up journeys between major population centres. However, since the COVID pandemic has made work more flexible, SBB said it hopes to cater for families and individuals that choose to move to smaller towns by offering them more regular connections.
SBB will only be faster when competing with driving
In addition, stations across the country will be upgraded with new facilities. The most notable upgrades will be a new platform and tunnel at Stadelhofen station in Zurich and the building of an underground station at Geneva Cornavin. The Federal Council hoped that the new investments, which are estimated to cost tens of billions of francs, will allow trains to be longer, more frequent and in some cases faster than before.
For long-distance travel, the Federal Council will only speed up services on lines “where the train is not competitive with driving terms of travel time.” In these cases - mostly between German and French-speaking cities - over 720 million francs will be invested in streamlining the network, such as by expanding the Lötschberg tunnel between Zurich and Bern.
The Federal Council admitted that it will take a long time to see all the proposals implemented, but is confident that their new plan better fits the trends of the future. The proposal has now been submitted to parliament, with a vote expected in October.