Swiss passenger rail operator Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB) launched the first phase of its Rail 2000 project in mid-December 2004, extending the line by 14% and the number of services offered by 12%. The project, which was approved in a 1987 referendum, was delayed by five years and split into two phases.
Initial investment in the project, provided by the federal government, included $6.1 billion for infrastructure, which has since been augmented by $1.85 billion from general SBB resources for new trains.
The nearly 100 miles of additional track for the project includes a new 28-mile line linking Matstetten to Rothrist. This 124-mph section allows journey times less than one hour along all three routes linking Zurich, Bale/Basel and Bern. Passengers on the entire network benefit from improved journey times because of the immediate interchanges at hub stations in the new schedules. Frequencies on all principal inter-urban corridors are now 30 minutes.
Infrastructure spending included new electrical supply signaling systems and additional approach paths and crossovers around stations to make it possible for several trains to arrive and leave in quick succession. An 8.6-mile third track was built to separate long-distance trains and regional trains in the Geneva area, and a 5.8-mile two-track tunnel was built between Zurich and Thalwil.
“This is the biggest project in our country’s history, which has dominated the work of many [SBB] employees for nearly 20 years,” said Christian Krauchi, project spokesperson.
Local enhancements also played a part in the project, including S-bahn services in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland serving Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona. Cross-border S-bahn services were also expanded in Zug, south of Zurich, and in central Switzerland on lines emanating from Luzern.
The project has also reduced journey times between the Geneva and Zurich airports to two hours at half-hour intervals. In addition, travel from Montreux on Lac Leman to Bale/ Basel and the French and German borders previously took nearly three hours, running only hourly. Now, it takes less than two and a half hours and is available twice an hour.
It may take five years to raise seat occupancy to match the additional services and raise passenger journeys per year close to 300 million, Krauchi said. This is more than 40 journeys per person a year in a country with a population of 7.4 million.
By then, decisions about funding the rest of the original Rail 2000 project proposals will be taken up by the Swiss Parliament, which deferred it until 2007. BRIAN BAKER