SBB planning new direct train from Switzerland to London
The Federal Council has confirmed that it has ordered Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the main public transport operator, to begin planning a new direct rail connection between Swiss cities and London. Transport Minister Albert Rösti told 20 Minuten that he welcomed the plan to connect Switzerland and the United Kingdom by train, and has asked to be shown how it could be done.
Swiss government welcomes idea of direct train from Basel to London
In a statement given to the Swiss media, the minister announced that "the Federal Council would generally welcome a direct train connection between Basel or Geneva and London." He said that the government has ordered SBB to plan the route and explore how feasible a direct connection between Switzerland and the UK capital would be in the long run.
The statement comes in response to a motion by National Councillor Matthias Aebischer, who called for SBB to set up a direct connection between the two countries in March 2023. At the time Aebischer argued that the 5,5-hour trip between Basel and London would connect two entrepreneurial and business hubs, while providing British tourists with the ideal way to visit Swiss mountains, ski resorts and places further afield like Italy.
Huge potential for Switzerland-UK rail route
20 Minuten added that there is method to the proposal: London remains one of the most popular destinations to fly to from Switzerland - so much so that the city of Zurich is planning its own direct rail service to the UK. What’s more, when the time spent in security and passport control at Swiss airports is combined with the flight, baggage reclaim and actually getting from one of London’s airports to the centre of the city, the train would actually take a similar amount of time.
"I am pleased that the Federal Council is taking the idea seriously and is demanding quick solutions from SBB," Aebischer told 20 Minuten. In discussions with Rösti, he said that there was “a lot of goodwill for the promotion of train connections abroad," adding that he was “optimistic that we'll soon be able to travel directly from Basel to London."
SBB to reveal its plan by 2024
However, before we all pack out bags and head off for an evening in the West End, Rösti acknowledged that there were still issues to be ironed out. Chief of which is who would actually run the service: would it be the Eurostar, TGV Lyria, SNCF or SBB, and if it isn’t a Swiss company, how would the government convince the firms to support the project?
Rösti said that while the council “cannot influence the decisions made by foreign companies”, if a company from Eurostar to Southern Rail come knocking they will be given a fair hearing from the government. Finally, if SBB trains end up being used on the line, the minister warned that they will have to accommodate passport, visa, security, entry and fire protection requirements in the UK before the service can be made a reality.
Nevertheless, the minister concluded that "initial findings from SBB show that there is potential for a direct train connection between Switzerland and London." SBB is expected to reveal its plan for the route by 2024.