Switzerland - General Information
National Railway System
National Railway Operator
Schweizerische Bundesbahnen AG (SBB), Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses SA (CFF) and Ferrovie federali svizzere SA (FFS) are the German, French and Italian renderings of Swiss Federal Railways. The form used on buildings and other fixed installations depends on the language area in which they are situated. At a few locations, notably Biel/Bienne, two languages are used. Most rolling stock carries all three sets of initials.
German is the main language.
Written German is almost identical to that found in Germany - one main difference is that the Esszett ('ß') is rarely used, with 'ss' being preferred. Spoken Swiss German however differs considerably from standard German to the extent that many Germans find it hard to understand.
There is an extensive French-speaking area covering Cantons Genève, Vaud, Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Jura, plus the western half of Valais and a small part of Bern. Certain towns to the west of Bern are officially bilingual. They are normally shown in both languages, e.g. Biel/Bienne and Fribourg/Freiburg.
Italian is spoken in Canton Ticino.
The predominant language in Canton Graubünden is German, but there is a minority language, Romansch. Some place names in this canton are generally given in both German and Romansch, e.g. Disentis/Mustér.
numeric 85; alpha CH
- All services: öv.info.ch (German) tp-info.ch/fr (French) and tp-info.ch/it (Italian). These sites replaced the former fahrplanfelder.ch site in April 2023.
Searches can be made by placename, station or stop name and by table number. All Swiss public transport timetables (SBB/CFF/FFS, other rail operators, tram, bus, Metro, ferry, cable-car, ski lift etc) are available on these sites.
An archive of previous years' timetables back to 2006 is on the new öv.info.ch site here.
The last printed Offizielles Kursbuch/Indicateur officiel/Orario ufficiale was published in 2017. It is still available in downloadable pdf format; see above.
- Temporary timetable amendments: öv-info.ch/de/fahrplan-aktuell/temporaere-fahrplanaenderungen
The Journey Planner (above) selects bus services if they provide the best journey.
The Post Bus website provides comprehensive public transport information.
- Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz by Schweers + Wall.
- European Railway Atlas (All-Europe Edition) by M.G. Ball.
- European Railway Atlas (Regional Series - Switzerland) by M.G. Ball.
- Track plans for RhB (ISBN 3-89494-101-4 pub. 1999) were published by Schweers + Wall.
- SBB's Schweizer Bahn-Karte, which is widely available, shows all passenger railways, inter-urban bus routes, ferries, cable cars and chair lifts on a 1:301000 relief map of Switzerland.
- Schienennetz Schweiz: Ein technisch-historischer Atlas, published by AS Verlag, includes track layout diagrams and gradient profiles for all Swiss railways, as well as a vast amount of other technical and historical data. The third edition was published in 2010 and it is not known if there is a later one.
- A zoomable network map (without timetable numbers) is available online the Swiss public transport atlas.
- Sporenplan has an on-line map giving access to a series of schematic track diagrams.
- Thorsten Büker's Map of Switzerland has not been updated since April 2011.
- Maps and Plans - Switzerland
Fares on some mountain railways are very expensive, though rover tickets, holiday cards, half fare passes and city tickets given free by hotels may give reductions. Discounts may be available for travel on trains early in the morning or late in the afternoon or in low season.
The Interrail One Country Pass for Switzerland is considerably cheaper than the well-promoted Swiss Travel Pass, although the latter includes bus services, lake shipping services and urban transport in most Swiss cities and large towns. Entry to most Swiss museums is also included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
A downloadable map shows the lines on which Interrail tickets are valid in Switzerland, either free of further charge or at a reduced rate.
An online validity map shows where Swiss travel passes, including the Day Saver Pass, are valid.
It is not possible to purchase a ticket on board a train without paying a substantial fine. Tickets must be bought in advance from a machine on the platform, online, or by smartphone. However, the transaction must be completed - including the payment being received by SBB - before the train departs. Some tickets must be date-stamped in a machine on the platform. These rules are enforced rigidly. A few exceptions will be made, for example for travellers changing from an international train who have had no opportunity of buying a ticket.
SBB Infrastructure, a division of SBB.
A few lines in Switzerland are owned by DB Netz AG, the German national railway infrastructure company.
Links towards the bottom of the Track access page
The SBB/CFF/FFS system is standard gauge. Most other railways are either standard gauge or metre gauge, and some have sections of both. Various other gauges are used. The Rhätische Bahn and the Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn together form an extensive metre gauge system with through workings between the two lines.
A gauge changer at Zweisimmen enables through running of dual gauge stock between the metre gauge MOB and the standard gauge BLS. This is the only such installation in Switzerland.
Most standard gauge lines are electrified at 15 kV 16.7 Hz, with 11 kV 16.7 Hz on the RhB/MGB system. Various systems are used by other railways, including low voltage dc. The CFF line from Genève to the frontier at La Plaine (but excluding the tracks to Genève Aéroport) is electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz for through running by SNCF trains; it was converted from 1500 V dc in autumn 2014. Very few lines are not electrified, the main exceptions being the steam-worked Brienz Rothorn Bahn, the freight-only Sursee–Triengen and Solothurn–Büren an der Aare lines and the Etzwilen to Singen (DE) heritage line.
With the electrification of Erzingen (Baden) to Schaffhausen, the only remaining unelectrified section of the Basel to Schaffhausen line within Switzerland is the 2 km between Basel Bad Bf and the border. DB diesel units continue to operate Basel - Singen services including over the electrified Swiss sections either side of Schaffhausen. Electrification of the Basel to Erzingen section (almost all within Germany) is planned for the mid-2020s.
Most tramways operate at 750 V dc.
Rule of the road
Left, except for right hand running as follows: on DB AG lines through Basel and Schaffhausen, the SNCF line between Mulhouse and Basel SBB / Bâle SNCF and between Genève and Annemasse [SNCF] which reduces conflicts at La Praille and Annemasse. There is extensive bi-directional signalling, so it is quite usual for trains to run on the right-hand track if this suits operating requirements.
Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz by Schweers + Wall is the most easily available source of distance information.
Detailed distances for most of SBB can be found at Linie mit Betriebspunkten. This is a list of stations and junctions with distances to 3 decimal points. It does not, however, take account of deviations which increase or decrease the distance.
The Schienennetz Schweiz (see the Printed Maps section) was the definitive publication. However it may not be easily available or up to date.
Cantons (local government) have extensive shareholdings in many of these railways. Some railways have amalgamated in recent years or combined their operations. Rolling stock, tickets and publicity may still bear old names in some cases. In many cases other railways operate over SBB lines and vice versa. Funicular railways are not listed.
Aare Seeland mobil AG www.asmobil.ch: Biel/Bienne to Ins; Niederbipp to Langenthal and St Urban Ziegelei; Solothurn to Niederbipp: Metre gauge, 1200V dc. The freight-only line from St Urban Ziegelei to Melchnau closed in 2012.
Aargau Verkehr AG www.aargauverkehr.ch/: Wohlen to Dietikon: Metre gauge, 1200 V dc. Aarau to Schöftland and to Menziken. Metre gauge, 750 V dc.
Appenzeller Bahnen AG www.appenzellerbahnen.ch:
- Gossau to Appenzell and Wasserauen; St Gallen to Gais and Appenzell; Gais to Altstätten Stadt; St Gallen to Trogen: Metre gauge, 1500V dc, with Strub rack between Stoss and Altstätten Stadt.
- Rheineck to Walzenhausen: 1200 mm gauge, 600 V dc, with Riggenbach rack between Ruderbach and Walzenhausen.
- Rorschach to Heiden: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz, with Riggenbach rack, except at Rorschach.
- Frauenfeld to Wil: Metre gauge, 1200 V dc. This line was absorbed into the Appenzeller Bahnen system in 2021.
BLS AG www.bls.ch: Lengnau to Moutier; Bern to Neuchâtel and to Schwarzenburg; Bern to Thun via Belp; Thun to Brig and to Visp via the old and new Lötschberg tunnels; Spiez to Interlaken Ost and to Zweisimmen; Solothurn to Moutier and to Burgdorf; Burgdorf to Thun and to Langnau; Ramsei to Sumiswald-Grünen; Langenthal to Wolhusen; Sumiswald-Grünen to Wasen im Emmental and to Huttwil (freight only to Burghof and Huttwil but with summer tourist operation by Emmentalbahn to Wasen and Huttwil - see below). All standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz. SBB operates all long-distance passenger trains over the Lötschberg route and to Interlaken. BLS operates local services in the Bern area, including those over SBB lines. Lengnau to Moutier forms part of the main line from Biel/Bienne to Basel and all passenger trains are operated by CFF.
Brienz Rothorn Bahn brienz-rothorn-bahn.ch: Brienz to Rothorn Kulm: 800 mm gauge with Abt rack. The line is not electrified and most trains are steam-worked. The railway does not operate during the winter.
Dolderbahn Betriebs AG www.zvv.ch: Zürich-Römerhof to Zürich-Dolder: Metre gauge, 600 V dc, with Strub rack throughout. Managed by Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich.
Ferrovie autolinee regionali ticinesi trading as Ferrovia Vigezzina-Centovalli www.vigezzinacentovalli.com: Locarno to Camedo (line continues through Italy as Societa Subalpina di Imprese Ferroviarie to Domodossola): Metre gauge, 1200V dc.
Forchbahn AG www.forchbahn.ch: Zürich-Rehalp to Esslingen (operates over the Zürich tram system between Rehalp and Stadelhofen): Metre gauge, 1200V dc (600V on the tramway section).
Gornergrat Bahn www.gornergrat.ch: Zermatt to Gornergrat: Metre gauge, 750 V 50 Hz three-phase, with Abt rack throughout. The railway is managed by the Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn.
Jungfraubahnen www.jungfrau.ch: Jungfraubahn Holding AG and Berner Oberland Bahnen AG are jointly-managed companies that own and operate the following lines:
- Berner Oberland Bahnen: Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen and to Grindelwald: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc, with Riggenbach rack.
- Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren: Grütschalp to Mürren: Metre gauge, 550 V dc.
- Jungfraubahn: Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch: Metre gauge, 1125 V 50 Hz three-phase, with Strub rack throughout.
- Schynige Platte Bahn: Wilderswil to Schynige Platte: 800 mm gauge, 1500 V dc, with Riggenbach rack. No winter service.
- Wengernalpbahn: Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen and to Grindelwald: 800 mm gauge, 1500 V dc, with Riggenbach rack.
Chemins de fer du Jura www.les-cj.ch:
- La Chaux-de-Fonds to Glovelier; Le Noirmont to Tavannes: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc.
- Porrentruy to Bonfol: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz.
Chemin de fer Lausanne-Echallens-Bercher SA www.leb.ch: Lausanne-Flon to Bercher: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc.
Ferrovie Luganesi SA flpsa.ch: Lugano to Ponte Tresa: Metre gauge, 1000V dc.
AG Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn www.matterhorngotthardbahn.ch: Zermatt to Brig, Andermatt, Göschenen and Disentis/Mustér: Metre gauge, 11 kV, 16.7 Hz, with several sections of Abt rack.
Ferrovia Monte Generoso www.montegeneroso.ch: Capolago Lago to Generoso Vetta: 800 mm gauge
Chemin de fer Montreux Oberland Bernois journey.mob.ch: Montreux to Zweisimmen and Lenk: Metre gauge, 900 V dc.
Chemin de fer Nyon-St Cergue-Morez www.nstcm.ch: Nyon to La Cure: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc. The company's name reflects that railway originally continued to Morez, in France, but the line beyond the Swiss border at La Cure closed in 1958.
Oensingen-Balsthal Bahn AG www.oebb.ch: Balsthal to Oensingen: Standard gauge 15 kV 16.7 Hz. Passenger services are worked by SBB.
Pilatus Bahnen AG www.pilatus.ch: Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm: 800 mm gauge, 1550 V dc, with Locher rack, unique to this line. The steepest rack railway in the world, it does not operate during the winter.
RegionAlps SA www.regionalps.ch: A joint venture between CFF (70%), Transports de Martigny et Régions SA (18%) and Canton Valais (12%) responsible for operation of local passenger trains between Brig and St Gingolph and from Martigny to Le Châble and Orsières.
Regionalverkehr Bern-Solothurn AG www.rbs.ch:
- Bern to Solothurn, Unterzollikofen and Worb Dorf via Worblaufen: Metre gauge, 1250 V dc.
- Bern Egghölzli to Worb Dorf via Gümligen: Metre gauge, 600 V dc, with through running at Egghölzli onto the Bern tram system.
Rhätische Bahn www.rhb.ch:
- Chur to Arosa; Chur to St Moritz and Pontresina via Thusis; Reichenau-Tamins to Disentis/Muster; Chur to Filisur via Davos; Klosters to Sagliains and Susch; Bever to Scuol-Tarasp; Samedan to Pontresina: Metre gauge, 11 kV 16.7 Hz.
- St Moritz to Tirano: Metre gauge, 1000 V dc.
There is mixed-gauge track Chur to Ems Werk, to allow freight operation by SBB. The Italian and Romansch names Ferrovia retica and Viafier retica appear on rolling stock, but the abbreviation 'RhB' is always used.
Rigi Bahnen www.rigi.ch: Vitznau to Rigi Kulm; Arth-Goldau to Rigi Kulm: 1500 V dc, with Riggenbach rack on both lines.
Schweizerische Südostbahn www.sob.ch: Romanshorn to St Gallen St Fiden; St Gallen to Wattwil and Nesslau-Neu St Johann; Rapperswil to Arth-Goldau, Wädenswil to Samstagern, Biberbrugg to Einsiedeln: Standard gauge 15 kV 16.7 Hz. The company operates local trains over some SBB lines in Eastern Switzerland. The company trades as Südostbahn, but the service between Luzern and St Gallen is branded Voralpen-Express, the IR service between Zürich/Basel and Locarno via the old Gotthard Tunnel is branded Treno Gottardo and the IR service between Basel, Zürich and Chur is branded as Aare Linth.
Sensetalbahn: Flamatt to Laupen: Standard gauge 15 kV 16.7 Hz. The company is owned jointly by SBB (66%) and Swiss Post (34%) and owns the infrastructure on the branch, but maintenance and operation of the infrastructure is contracted to SBB. Trains are operated by BLS. Rail-cycles can be hired throughout the year at Laupen station for use on the closed railway from there most of the way to Gümmenen.
Sihltal-Zürich-Uetliberg Bahn SZU AG www.szu.ch:
- Zürich HB to Uetliberg: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz (from 22 August 2022. Was 1200 V dc until 26 July 2022).
- Zürich HB to Sihlbrugg: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz. There is no regular passenger service between Sihlwald and Sihlbrugg, although occasional steam trains operate through from Zürich.
Sursee-Triengen-Bahn AG www.sursee-triengen-bahn.ch: Sursee to Triengen: Freight only, standard gauge, not electrified. Occasional steam passenger trains operate.
Thurbo AG www.thurbo.ch: A SBB (90%) and Canton Thurgau (10%) joint venture for operation of local trains in north-east Switzerland.
Transports de Martigny et Régions SA www.tmrsa.ch:
- Martigny to Orsières and Le Châble: Standard gauge 15 kV 16.7 Hz. Operated by RegionAlps SA.
- Martigny to Le Châtelard-Frontière: Metre gauge, 800 V dc, with Strub rack and third rail electrification between Vernayaz and Salvan. There are through workings over the SNCF line to Chamonix.
Transports Montreux-Vevey-Riviera www.mob.ch:
- Vevey to Les Pléiades: Metre gauge, 850 V dc, with Strub rack Blonay to Les Pléiades.
- Montreux to Rochers-de-Naye: 800 mm gauge, 850 V dc, with Abt rack.
Managed by Chemin de Fer Montreux Oberland Bernois.
transN SA (Transports Publics Neuchâtelois) www.transn.ch:
- Les Brenets to Le Locle; La Chaux-de-Fonds to Les Ponts-de-Martel : Metre gauge, 1500 V dc. Les Brenets to Le Locle was to close in December 2023 for conversion to an electric busway, but this has been deferred until at least the end of 2024.
- Travers to Fleurier and Buttes: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz. There are occasional steam trains over a non-electrified standard-gauge freight branch from Fleurier to St Sulpice.
Transports Publics du Chablais www.tpc.ch:
- Aigle to Leysin Grand Hotel: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc, with Abt rack, except between Aigle and Aigle Dépot. To be diverted to Télésiège Tête d’Aï instead of Leysin Grand Hotel by 2023.
- Aigle to Le Sépey and Les Diablerets: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc.
- Monthey to Aigle and to Champéry: Metre gauge, 850 V dc, with Strub rack on most of the line to Champéry. To be converted to 1000 V dc and Abt rack and diverted to Monthey SBB by 2029.
- Bex to Villars-sur-Ollon and Col-de-Bretaye: Metre gauge, 650 V dc, with Abt rack between Villars-sur-Ollon and Col-de-Bretaye.
Transports Publics Fribourgeois Holding (TPF) SA www.tpf.ch:
- Bulle to Palézieux and Montbovon: Metre gauge, 800 V dc.
- Romont to Bulle; Ins to Muntelier; Murten to Givisiez: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz.
- Bulle to Broc-Fabrique: Standard gauge 15 kV, 16.7 Hz. Originally metre gauge, 800 V dc; converted 2021-23. The final re-gauged section between Broc-Village and Broc-Fabrique is scheduled to re-open in August 2023.
Transports de la Région Morges-Bière-Cossonay SA www.mbc.ch: Morges to Bière; Apples to L’Isle-Mont-la-Ville; Bière Jonction to Bière-Casernes (freight only): Metre gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz.
Travys (Transports Vallée du Joux Yverdon-les-Bains Sainte Croix SA) www.travys.ch:
- Yverdon to Ste Croix: Metre gauge, 15 kV, 16.7 H z.
- Chavornay to Orbe: Standard gauge, 700 V dc but planned to be converted to 15 kV 16.7 Hz by 2025, although this may be delayed.
- Le Pont to Le Brassus: Standard gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz, with through running via CFF to and from Lausanne, joining/splitting from Vallorbe trains at Le Day.
Waldenburgerbahn www.blt.ch: Liestal - Waldenburg: Metre gauge, 1500 V dc. Originally 750 mm gauge, but converted in 2021-22. In 2016 the railway became part of BLT Baselland Transport AG.
Zentralbahn (ZB Zentralbahn AG) www.zentralbahn.ch:
- Luzern to Interlaken Ost and Engelberg: Metre gauge, 15 kV 16.7 Hz with some Riggenbach rack sections.
- Meiringen to Innertkirchen: Metre gauge, 1200 V dc, but may be converted to 15 kV.
The company is 66% owned by SBB.
Many railways operate principally for tourists, usually daily throughout the year, but the following are "heritage" operations:
Chemin de fer touristique Blonay-Chamby: Blonay to Chamby (metre gauge) blonay-chamby.ch
Dampfbahn Furka Bergstrecke: Realp to Oberwald (metre gauge) dfb.ch
Dampfbahn Verein Zürcher Oberland: Bauma to Hinwil (SBB line with no other passenger service) dvzo.ch
Emmentalbahn: Sumiswald-Grünen to Huttwil and Wasen im Emmental (BLS Lötschbergbahn lines with no other passenger service) emmentalbahn.ch
Sursee-Triengen-Bahn: Sursee to Triengen ('private' freight-only line) sursee-triengen-bahn.ch
Museumsbahn Stein am Rhein - Etzwilen - Singen: Etzwilen to Singen. Operations were extended from Rielasingen to Singen in August 2020. etzwilen-singen.ch
Vapeur Val de Travers: Travers to St Sulpice (there is a regular passenger service by transN between Travers and Fleurier) vvt.ch
Zürcher Museumsbahn: Zürich-Wiedikon to Sihlbrugg (there is a regular passenger service by Sihltal Zürich Uetlibergbahn between Zürich-Giesshübel and Sihlwald) museumsbahn.ch
The Sinfin.net site has links to most Swiss railways including other museum or tourist railways.
A significant number of local lines around Swiss towns and cities have Metro characteristics. The Metro system in Lausanne, between Lausanne-Flon and Renens VD and between Ouchy and Croisettes, is the only one designed and built as such, though a short section of the line from Ouchy is converted from a former rack line.
A track plan of the Lausanne system is available on the Carto.Metro site.
The Basel system extends into France and Germany.
- Bern www.bernmobil.ch;
- Genève www.tpg.ch. The Genève system extends into France;
- Neuchâtel www.transn.ch (there is only one route, Route 215);
- Zürich www.zvv.ch.
An unusual tramway is Riffelalptram, connecting Riffelalp station on the Gornergratbahn with the Riffelalp Resort hotel. It is 500 m long, located at altitude 2200 m, and is 800 mm gauge and battery-operated. It runs from late June to mid-September only and is shown in Table 12.580 of the Swiss timetable.
Recent and Future Changes
Closures expected to go ahead (without rail alternative)
Timetable changes effective from December 2024 include the hourly IC service between St Gallen and Genève Aéroport via Biel/Bienne being diverted to Lausanne, with connections to and from Genève at Renens. This will result in there being no trains (or a very limited service) via the line between Bussigny and Denges-Echandens.
The metre-gauge branch from Le Locle to Les Brenets was to close in December 2023, with the trackbed being converted to a busway for electric buses. However, difficulties in enlarging the rail tunnels to accommodate buses have led to the closure being deferred until at least the end of 2024, and probably later. As a result of storm damage on 24 July 2023 the line was closed and replaced by buses, but despite fears that it would remain closed, rail services resumed on 1 November 2023.
The station at Sihlwald on the SZU line from Zürich is proposed to be relocated 300 m north in 2026, thus closing a short section of the line to regular passenger services. The line beyond the new station is still expected to be used by the Sunday steam specials to Sihlbrugg.
The rack line from Gais to Altstätten Stadt is planned to be closed in 2035 when the existing rolling stock comes up for replacement, following a review in 2019 by Cantons St Gallen and Appenzell-Ausserrhoden.
Closures expected to go ahead (with rail alternative)
The TRAVYS operated Chavornay – Orbe branch is planned to be converted from 750 V DC to 15 kV AC and the current station forecourt platform and level crossing at Chavornay replaced by a new alignment from 1.3 km north. Work was intended to commence in summer 2021 for completion in 2023, but legal action from the local authority demanding an underpass instead of a bridge to cross the main road has delayed this project indefinitely.
The Transports Publics du Chablais (tpc) have two projects:
- Monthey-Ville on the Aigle – Monthey – Champéry line is to be closed and the lines serving it diverted to Monthey SBB. The project was suspended in December 2019 following local objections. A revised plan has been published but work is not expected to commence until 2025, with completion in 2030. See this website for details.
- The Aigle – Leysin line is to be extended by 1140 m in tunnel from the site of the existing Leysin-Village station to a new station at Leysin-Belvédère to serve a ski lift, Télésiège Tête d’Aï. Intermediate stations will be built at Village-Versmont, replacing the current Leysin-Village and Versmont stations, and at Leysin-Centre. The rack line from Leysin-Village to the current terminus of Leysin-Grand Hôtel will be closed, to be replaced by an underground funicular which will run from Leysin Centre Sportif, via an interchange at Leysin-Centre, to Leysin-Grand Hôtel-Feydey. Construction is planned to commence in 2026, with services due to begin in 2030. See the map on the tpc website for details.
A new Albulatunnel, on the Rhätische Bahn, is under construction, with services due to start using it on 7 June 2024. The old tunnel will retained (without rails) for maintenance access and safety evacuation.
A double-track tunnel of 2130 m is under construction as part of a 3.3 km deviation to replace the single-line section between [La Neuveville], Chavanne and Twann, on the line between Neuchâtel and Biel/Bienne. This is the last single-track section on the entire route between Lausanne and Olten. The halt at Ligerz on the current line will close without replacement. The new line was due to open in December 2026 but opening has been postponed until 2029 because of protests and appeals, and new environmental protection requirements.
A 3.3 km diversion of the Romont to Bulle line is planned, in order to remove a number of sharp curves and level crossings.
It is planned to divert the Lugano-Ponte Tresa line of Ferrovie Luganesi via a direct tunnel between Lugano and Bioggio, with the present route via Capella-Agnuzzo closing. This could be completed by 2029.
A new low-level part of Bern station is under construction. This will replace platforms 21-24 which serve the RBS line via Worblaufen to Worb Dorf and Solothurn. A new line will diverge from the existing line about 1.4 km south of Bern Felsenau station and lead to the new station, which will have two island platforms and four platform faces. The new line and station are expected to open in mid-2029.
Closures proposed but not going ahead
The Berner Oberland Bahn was reported to be reviewing the future of the Schynige Platte Bahn, which operates from the end of May until the end of October. It is increasingly difficult to maintain the historic rolling stock, the line is only marginally profitable and there were no reserves for modernisation. However, in June 2019 it was announced that the railway would continue to operate with the existing rolling stock for at least the next 25 years, and in September 2021 a financing package was finally approved by Canton Bern for track and trackbed renewal and refurbishment of the depot at Wilderswil.
Following a 2019 review by Cantons Appenzell-Ausserrhoden and St. Gallen, rack line 858 from Rheineck to Walzenhausen was proposed for conversion either to automatic operation or to a cable car. In late 2022 it was decided keep the line as a rack railway and to order an automatic vehicle to operate it. The new unit is due to come into service in 2026.
Rack-operated line 857 Rorschach Hafen - Heiden was also reviewed in 2019, and this line will be retained in its current form.
The Porrentruy – Bonfol line had reportedly been threatened with closure owing to the cost of renewing the signalling and providing universal access, although no actual closure plans were published. In late 2023 it was announced that the line will close between late June and early October 2024 for track renewal, so it would appear that the line is now safe from closure.
Projects under way or planned
Following a serious freight train derailment which blocked the southern end of the Gotthard Base Tunnel on 10 August 2023, the eastern bore reopened on 23 August but for freight traffic only, while the western bore remains closed. Over 7 km of track and concrete trackbed were damaged and have to be replaced. A very limited passenger service resumed through the eastern bore on 29 September 2023.
SBB announced in early November 2023 that full service through the tunnel will not resume until September 2024, but an improved passenger service will run through the eastern bore at weekends from the timetable change on 10 December 2023.
A new 7.7 km-long standard-gauge tramway is under construction between Lausanne-Flon and Croix-du-Péage, north of Bussigny. The first stage of 4.6 km is due to open in mid-2026. It will run to the north of the Lausanne to Renens railway line along the main road between Lausanne and Renens (Rue de Genève and Rue de Lausanne). The second stage of 3.1 km turns north and runs towards Villars-Sainte-Croix and is due to open at the end of 2027. Loops at either end will not be required as double-ended trams have been ordered.
In June 2019 the Swiss Parliament approved funding for a programme of works to upgrade and modernise the railway network, for the period up to 2035. Projects include:
- A rail line to Basel/Mulhouse airport
- A new line between Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds, to avoid the reversal at Chambrelien
- Completion of the southern section of the Zimmerberg tunnel, between Zürich and Zug
- A new, more direct line between Zürich and Winterthur, including the Brüttener tunnel from Bassersdorf and Dietlikon to Winterthur
There will also be detailed planning of new lines between Basel SBB and Basel Bad Bf and at Luzern, to avoid reversal at the main station. The latter is expected to include a new line in a tunnel below the Vierwaldstättersee.
A 22 km metre-gauge link between Innertkirchen and Oberwald (the Grimselbahn), which would be mostly in tunnel including the long (8 km) Grimsel tunnel, but only single track, has been proposed. This would connect the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn and Zentralbahn metre gauge systems. The tunnels would be shared by power cables diverted from their existing route over mountains.
Openings (new and reopened lines)
The TPF branch from Bulle to Broc Fabrique reopened fully on 24 August 2023 after having been regauged from metre to standard gauge. It had closed on 6 April 2021 and was reopened as far as Broc-Village on 11 December 2022.
The former 750mm-gauge line between Liestal and Waldenburg (Waldenburgerbahn) reopened on 11 December 2022 after having been converted to metre-gauge. It had been closed since 6 April 2021. A longer-term aspiration is to link this line up with BLT tram route 14 at Pratteln.
The new gauge changer installed at Zweisimmen in 2019 was finally used by through Interlaken Ost - Montreux "Golden Pass" services from 11 December 2022. Through services were suspended from 26 February 2023 after further problems were encountered, but resumed, initially with only one train each way, on 11 June 2023, increasing to two train pairs (out of the three scheduled) from 2 July 2023.
A diveunder opened on 12 September 2022 at Bern Wylerfeld, where the lines towards Thun and Olten diverge just short of Bern Wankdorf station. This has permitted the introduction of direct services between Romanshorn, Zürich Flughafen and Interlaken from December 2022, among other service improvements.
A new flyover between Prilly-Malley, west of Lausanne, and Renens VD was brought into use on 4 July 2022. It carries Bern – Lausanne – Genève trains over the tracks used by trains between Lausanne and Yverdon-les-Bains. The line between Lausanne and Renens has also been quadrupled throughout.
The TPC-operated Aigle–Sépey–Diablerets (ASD) line reopened on 2 May 2022, having been closed since 30 July 2021 between Exergillod and Les Planches as a result of landslide damage at Les Fontanelles.
The new Eppenberg Tunnel, between Aarau and Däniken, opened to traffic on 12 October 2020, with full use by main line trains starting on 13 December 2020.
The first revenue freight train through the 15.4 km Ceneri Base Tunnel, between Bellinzona and Lugano, ran on 4 September 2020. Passenger trains started running with the December 2020 timetable change, including over the new south to west curve from the tunnel to the Locarno line (Biv. Camorino to Biv. Vigana).
The Léman Express cross-border suburban network serving Genève and Annemasse began regular operation on 16 December 2019, following a formal inauguration on 12 December 2019 of the last section (Lancy-Pont-Rouge - Genève Eaux Vives - Annemasse). In the first step, local trains were introduced over part of the La Praille freight branch, to Lancy-Pont-Rouge, where a new station opened 8 December 2017. From here the line uses the existing freight line to Bachet-de-Pesay, beyond which a new line crosses the river Arve then runs in tunnel most of the way to Annemasse. The new underground line follows the alignment of the closed Eaux Vives branch. For more detail of the Cornavin - Eaux-Vives - Annemasse [CEVA] Project follow link.
In the "heritage/museum" sector:
The SEHR preservation group reopened the last section of the Etzwilen (CH) to Singen (DE) line, the section in Germany between Rielasingen and Singen, with an inaugural day of service over the full cross-border route on 16 August 2020.
Openings (replacing other lines)
A new approx. 1.4 km section of underground line on the metre-gauge LEB (Lausanne–Echallens–Bercher) line between Lausanne-Chauderon and Union-Prilly was inaugurated on 14 May 2022, with public opening the following day. This replaced the previous route which mainly had on-street running.
Following the linking of the Appenzeller and Trogener Bahn lines in St Gallen, a more direct exit route from St Gallen towards Appenzell to the north of the former SBB goods station opened on 25 October 2021, replacing the line to the south, which closed on 18 October. A new tunnel, which replaced the rack-equipped section between St Gallen and Riethüsli, opened on 7 October 2018.
The new Bözberg Tunnel, between Brugg AG and Frick, was completed in February 2020. It has a larger loading gauge which allows piggyback services with 4-metre high trailers to use this route. Trains started using the new tunnel, and the old tunnel was closed, from 13 December 2020.
On the metre-gauge Regionalbahnen Bern-Solothurn line between Bern and Worb-Dorf, a deviation at Boll-Utzigen including a new station was opened on 26 September 2020. The old route and station closed on 17 September.
A new station and line came into use at Châtel St Denis on 14 December 2019, enabling TPF trains to run between the Palézieux and Bulle lines without having to reverse.
A re-sited station at Le Day, between Lausanne and Vallorbe, opened on 16 May 2022. It has been moved 300 metres nearer Vallorbe, from within the V of the junction for the Le Brassus line to the other side of the junction. This is to allow portion working from Lausanne of trains to Vallorbe and Le Brassus, splitting at Le Day.
A new station came into use at Laupen on 5 April 2021. This is east of the old one, resulting in the branch line becoming slightly shorter.
In the "heritage/museum" sector:
Club del San Gottardo ceased operations on the cross-border section of their Mendrisio – Stabio – Malnate (IT) line in 2015 as a result of the start of work on the new Stabio – Arcisate regular passenger line, the tourist service operating from then on exclusively in Swiss territory. After a considerable period of inactivity the Club closed the Mendrisio site from 31 December 2020 to concentrate on their "Swiss Railpark" site at Biasca, to where all rolling stock and offices have been transferred. There are no longer any tourist trains on any part of this line.
For details of older changes dating back to the year 2007 see Switzerland - Older General Information.
Distinctions between main line railways, light railways and tramways are more difficult in Switzerland than perhaps any other country. For example, the main line of the Rhätische Bahn from St Moritz to Tirano has several sections of street running. In Chur, the first section of the Arosa line out from Chur station is street running dual track, but not wide enough to permit trains crossing. In addition there is 11 kV ac over the street.
The Matterhorn-Gotthard, Rhätische Bahn and Montreux Oberland Bernois are among the railways running "Panoramic", "Glacier Express" or other trains with special facilities, such as observation cars. A supplementary fare is usually charged and advance reservation compulsory or strongly recommended.
The European Train Control System, Level 2, incorporating in-cab signalling, is used on the Mattstetten (Bern) to Rothrist (Olten) high-speed line and through the Lötschberg, Gotthard and Ceneri base tunnels. On the Gotthard line in-cab signalling extends between Brunnen and Castione-Arbedo, with the only trackside signals being shunt signals. Therefore, only trains fitted with in-cab signalling can operate on both the new and old Gotthard routes.
Tourist railways up mountains are sometimes of limited capacity, but subject to high demand, particularly at holiday periods and during the winter sports season. In such cases it may be necessary to wait some time before being able to board a train, so it is best to arrive at the railway as early in the day as possible. When booking a trip it is often necessary to reserve a seat on a specific train down the mountain. Once the railway’s capacity to bring people back down the mountain is fully booked, no more can ascend, unless they are staying at a summit hotel.