SBB adds trains on panoramic Gotthard line as tunnel works continue
Following the derailment incident of a freight train in the Gotthard Base Tunnel last summer on August 10, the passenger train services connecting German-speaking Switzerland and the Italian-language Ticino have been rerouted through the Gotthard mountain route. To accommodate increased passenger demand during the bustling autumn season, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has implemented supplementary train services on the route starting from September 21, 2023.
During the autumn break in the German-speaking regions of Switzerland, there is a notable surge in demand for travel along the Gotthard route. In response to this, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has scheduled the operation of three supplementary train services on the following Saturdays: September 30th, October 7th, and October 14th, 2023, along the scenic Gotthard mountain route.
These additional train services are strategically timed to coincide with the arrival of three EuroCity trains departing from Zurich and heading to Lugano, scheduled between 7:33 AM and 9:32 AM. Each of these supplementary trains departs approximately 10 minutes after the corresponding EuroCity train, effectively increasing the available seating capacity by about 2400 seats, equating to a 5 per cent boost in seating options for passengers embarking on their journey from Zurich to Ticino.
Clearance and repair work on schedule
On August 10, 2023, a freight train derailed within the west tube of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, resulting in significant material damage. The subsequent repair efforts are anticipated to span several months. Since August 23, freight trains have been able to resume travel within the unaffected east tube.
Progress on the extensive excavation and repair endeavours at the accident site within the west tube is proceeding as scheduled, with an expected completion date of Sunday, September 24, 2023. Following this milestone, an exhaustive assessment of the damage to the entire tunnel infrastructure will be conducted, followed by restoration work at the accident site, which spans approximately 8 kilometres. The restoration process is forecasted to be a lengthy undertaking, encompassing several months.
In collaboration with the Federal Office of Transport, SBB is actively exploring the possibility of reintroducing passenger trains to the east tunnel of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. At present, it remains uncertain and challenging to provide any specific forecasts regarding this matter.
SBB timetable changes
Due to the constraints of the rail network, SBB notes that travel durations on the additional trains on the Gotthard route are around 15 minutes longer. The operator strongly recommends that passengers secure seat reservations for trains adhering to the timetable. Reservations will once again be available for trains commencing from September 29, 2023. For those who opt for last-minute travel, it is advisable to consider utilising the supplementary trains. However, it’s depending on weather conditions and high holiday traffic, there may still be instances where passengers need to stand during their journey, says SBB.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Swiss Folk Music Festival is scheduled to take place in Bellinzona from September 21 to September 24, 2023. In commemoration of this event, SBB will operate two special trains on Saturday, September 23, and Sunday, September 24, 2023, both traversing the Gotthard mountain route. These special trains will embark on Saturday mornings from Zurich or Lucerne to Bellinzona and return on Sunday afternoons from Bellinzona to Zurich.