Have you always dreamed of discovering the magic of the Swiss Alps? To travel through snowy landscapes in winter or flowery pastures in summer? To forget the daily grind and immerse yourself in the tempo of the rails?
What if you took the time to travel through the beauty of the Swiss Alps by train via an exceptional rail network…
Switzerland, train country
The Swiss rail network offers travellers a safe and affordable way to get to all the country’s major cities.
With 5,129 kilometres of lines of all types, Switzerland has the densest rail network in the world: with an average of 94 trains per day per line, or one train every 12 minutes in 24 hours, the country ranks ahead of Japan.
In addition, the Swiss travel an average of 2,400 kilometers by train per capita every year, which is a world record*!
The Swiss Confederation is also very active on an international level with regard to connections to neighbouring European countries : France, Germany, Austria and Italy.
History of the train in Switzerland
The railway network and the train in Switzerland are the result of a constant development for almost 2 centuries.
When was the railway network built in Switzerland?
Switzerland played an important role in the development of railways in Europe, with the first railway line between Zurich and Baden in 1847, and the country’s first steam train.
This date marks the beginning of the railway network in Switzerland which has continued to the present day.
What are the main routes of the Swiss railway network?
There are currently several major links across the country, based on two main axes.
The West/East axes
The main one, which runs through the north of the country between Geneva and St. Gallen, links the major cities of the confederation such as Lausanne, Bern, Olten, Zurich and Winterthur.
The other axis follows the Rhone valley to the source of the river, passes through the Furka and joins the Rhine valley, between Lake Geneva, Sion, Chur and beyond.
The North/South axes
One, in theeast of the country, between Schaffahausen and Luganio, via Zurich.
The other, in thewest, from the Rhone valley to Brig via Thun to Bern.
In addition to these main routes, there are numerous complementary lines throughout Switzerland.
Thanks to these interconnected links, travellers can easily get to different parts of the country by various types of train in Switzerland:
InterCity, InterRegio, ICE, Cisalpino, TGV, Eurocity…
What are the main railway tunnels in Switzerland?
Underground tunnels are very important to connect several cities located on steep hills through the Alps.
Among the main tunnels in Switzerland are the Simplon and Saint-Gothard tunnels and the Lötschberg tunnel.
The Gotthard base tunnel, which opened in 2016, is 57 kilometres long and is considered the longest in the world.
These structures allow travellers to take full advantage of the natural beauty of the Alps while making short journeys between several towns and the various Alpine valleys.
There is a frequent use of piggybacking for the transport of trucks and passenger cars on trains.
What are the main railway projects in Switzerland?
Since its initial construction, the Swiss rail network has been constantly developed to include innovative projects that improve the quality and comfort of the journey.
Projects since the beginning of the new millennium include the RER Vaudois linking Lausanne and Geneva, the Zurich tramway and the extension of the Biel/Berne railway line.
In addition, the federal government is constantly investing in modern, faster and more environmentally friendly trains that provide direct connections between the country’s main cities.
Railway infrastructure and services in Switzerland
What is the total length of the Swiss railway network?
Today, Switzerland has a railway network of 5,129 kilometres of lines, of which
- 3,681 km of standard gauge track (1,435 mm), over 98% electrified
- 1,312 kilometres of one-metre gauge track (1,000 mm), over 97% electrified
- Less than a hundred kilometres are 750 and 800 mm lines, electrified at more than 80%
In addition, there are more than 50 funicular* lines throughout the country, not counted as trains.
The Swiss railway network is now considered one of the best in the world.
- Map of the contemporary railway network:
What are the main services offered by the train in Switzerland?
The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) offer a comprehensive service to users. Passengers not only benefit from a varied choice of train types*, but also from a multitude of additional services ranging from discounted tickets, special family fares, free wifi in some carriages and disabled-friendly access.
In addition, since 2016, a mobile app has been introduced to facilitate the purchase of digitised tickets.
What types of trains are used in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, there are several main categories of trains:
- Regional trains: RegioExpress, Regio, InterCity, InterRegio and S-Bahn
- High-speed trains between the main cities and Europe: ICN, ICE, RailJet, Eurocity, TGV
- Night trains, between several European countries: OBB Nightjet, EuroNight, D-Train
- Tourist trains, often at altitude: Bernina Express, Chocolat, Centovalli, Glacier Express, Golden Pass, Gotthard Express
What developments are improving the Swiss rail network?
Interval timetable, hydroelectric dam, tilting train, expres network, ICN high speed train…
The Swiss railways are constantly at the forefront of technology and sustainable development.
Sophisticated technical solutions have been progressively deployed to make trains run more smoothly on the rails, while ecological initiatives such as the use of renewable energy sources are developed.
Economy and impact of the Swiss train
What is the economic impact of the Swiss rail network?
The Swiss railway network plays a crucial role in the Swiss economy. The Swiss Federal Rail ways (SBB) and other train-related companies represent a significant proportion of the companies that provide employment.
Moreover, according to an estimate published* by the Union of Public Transport (UTP), the rail network makes a significant contribution to the country’s economic growth by providing a considerable number of direct or indirect jobs (approximately 207,000 jobs).
What are the challenges facing the Swiss network?
Although over time the performance of the Swiss railway system has improved thanks to the development of modern technologies and various maintenance programmes, the sector still faces certain challenges.
These challenges* include:
The backlog of work in relation to the investment and programmes undertaken; the declining investment in infrastructure in relation to the ambitious programmes; the need to further increase the reliability and punctuality of services; or the improvement of traffic during weekends.
What are the main advantages of the train in Switzerland?
The Swiss rail network offers reliable and safe transport for its users. Passengers can be sure that their train will arrive at its destination on time, as far as possible, thanks to the measures taken by the companies to ensure optimal service quality.
Timetable, ticket, reservation
Are you looking for a ticket, a reservation, an itinerary?
- Reservation and train tickets for all destinations in Switzerland directly with:
- Practical information on the train in Switzerland and France:
- Switzerland is a leader in train use, Litra (French)
- The Swiss railway giant in figures, SWI
- Funicular lines in Switzerland, Wikipedia
- Major projects : NRLA and Rail 2000
- The different trains, SBB
- The densest rail network in the world, OSE
- The importance of public transport in the economy, UTP
- Network development remains a challenge, LFM (French)
- Map of the Rhône river
- Where to sleep (French) in the Rhône valley?
- Weather along the Rhône
- Taking the train in Switzerland and France
- Rhône road by bike
- Activities and leisure in Switzerland