Photo: SBB

SBB to implement time-table changes across Switzerland

Photo: SBB

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) will be implementing timetable changes across Switzerland in December 2023 and 2024. Timetable adjustments are also planned for 2025 in certain regions. Further adjustments will also be made to minimise the impact of construction works on domestic and international connections.

Numerous roadworks are planned in French-speaking Switzerland over the next few years, due to the significantly older infrastructure in that area compared to the national average. Though the fundamentals of the SBB timetable have remained unchanged since the introduction of the railway in 2000, the existing timetable no longer has sufficient reserves in terms of journey times to ensure satisfactory punctuality and accommodate for the increased need for renewal of infrastructure.

Indeed, SBB punctuality figures are lower in western Switzerland, at 89.4 percent, than the Swiss average of 92.5% percent. By 2030, around six billion Swiss francs will be invested in the infrastructure of western Switzerland, and around 1.7 billion Swiss francs will be invested in the Bern node alone. The Geneva station will also undergo renewals, and the new Ligerz tunnel will be opened. Thus, CTSO and SBB will be instituting a new timetable from 15 December 2024 onwards. It is intended as a transitional solution and is to evolve.

The journey time of all long-distance services will be extended by a few minutes throughout the duration of this roadworks timetable, for at least the next decade, subject to improvements. Long-distance trains will now stop at Renens station, which will allow around 4,000 customers per day travelling to the west of Lausanne to disembark directly at Renens instead of going via Lausanne. Additionally, the IC5 trains will end their service in Lausanne. There will also be more RegioExpress trains, whose service will also be extended to Martigny.

In German speaking Switzerland

Switzerland’s long-distance traffic is undergoing important changes. From December 2023, Gotthard axis will introduce a half-hourly service which is expected to benefit leisure travellers from German-speaking Switzerland and commuters from Ticino with additional connections. Also, due to higher demand, two IC61 connections between Basel and Interlaken will now run as IC6 between Basel and Brig. Additionally, double-decker trains will run on selected lines for more comfortable journeys with more seats.

In regional transport, German-speaking Switzerland’s S11 will also be upgraded. From December 2023 to December 2024, the Zurich HB-Zurich Wipkingen line will be closed due to construction work. SBB is reconstructing Zurich Wipkingen station so that passengers can reach the platforms and trains without steps. SBB is also renovating the bridges on the section between the viaduct (at the height of Geroldstrasse) and Zurich Oerlikon (tunnel portal) and renewing the tracks so that trains can continue to run safely and on time. This will affect some train lines that will no longer run continuously in Zurich HB during this period, including the S24 between Zurich HB and Zurich Wipkingen.

International Traffic

Extensive construction work in neighbouring countries – Italy, France, Germany, and Austria – and in Switzerland will have a major impact on international passenger services in 2024. In Italy, the extension of the four-metre corridor between Domodossola and Milan will benefit transalpine freight traffic but lead to a reduction in services on the Simplon axis. This will result in one less train per direction on weekdays, while weekends will remain unchanged. Furthermore, the line between Arona and Stresa will be closed from June to September 2024, affecting all EC trains between Domodossola and Milan, with replacement buses operating instead.

In France, fewer TGVs will run between Zurich and Lausanne to Paris and back each Monday to Friday from August to December 2024 due to construction work in the north of Dijon. Meanwhile, numerous construction sites on the German and Austrian network will prevent day connections and night trains from running on the same timetable throughout the year. All destinations will continue to be accessible by day and night train, even if the offer is temporarily reduced in some cases or more changes have to be made. For night trains, there will also be earlier departure times and changed routes in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

In the Jura foothills

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and the Conference of Transport in Western Switzerland (CTSO) have presented a new timetable for 2025, which aims to improve stability and punctuality on one of the busiest rail networks in the world. The changes will also allow for essential expansion and maintenance work to be carried out. However, some towns in western Switzerland have expressed displeasure with the new timetable, and SBB has promised to meet with them to explain the details of the changes.

One of the key changes is the redesign of the IC5 connections between the Jura South Foothills and Geneva. The IC5 trains will now run every half hour and always from/to Lausanne. Customers travelling from Yverdon-les-Bains, Neuchâtel, or Biel to Geneva, or vice versa, will now have two connections per hour with a change in Renens, running in 1 hour 17 minutes. This redesign was chosen due to various studies that showed it is impossible to run trains systematically under good conditions, especially on the heavily used Lausanne-Geneva line, until the Geneva node is rebuilt over several years.

The towns and regions along the Jura South Foothills will receive major investments from SBB for the expansion of public transportation. Several hundred million Swiss francs will be invested in the preservation and redevelopment of the historic site in Yverdon-les-Bains, and construction work has begun on the new Ligerz tunnel between Neuchâtel and Biel. These projects, together with the new timetable, aim to provide better connections and faster journey times for passengers in the region.

Protesting the “two-speed” timetable

Yverdon, Neuchâtel, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Geneva, Biel, Delémont, and Morges have formally complained about the modifications to the timetable, expressing concerns that it will significantly degrade rail service in their respective regions. The current direct train route from Neuchâtel to Geneva, which takes 1 hour and 9 minutes, will be discontinued for a period of ten years starting from December 2023 due to construction activities. Instead, the only available option will be a route with a transfer in Lausanne, increasing the travel time to 1 hour and 36 minutes. This decision has been criticised for creating a “two-speed” rail system and potentially making the train service less appealing.

The undersigned parties contend that this change will have a detrimental impact on the rail service in western Switzerland for a decade, including the night train service from Geneva to Basel. Although the frequency of trains between the Jura region and Lausanne will be doubled, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits for those affected. Passengers travelling from the Jura region to Geneva or Geneva Airport will also face significant disruptions. In response, SBB has expressed its intention to engage in discussions with the concerned stakeholders. These modifications are deemed necessary to facilitate essential development and maintenance work on one of the busiest rail networks in the world.

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Author: Emma Dailey

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