High-speed rail in Switzerland

High-speed rail in Switzerland

Switzerland has some high-speed trains of its own yet. French TGV (TGV Lyria) and German ICE lines extend into Switzerland, but given the dense rail traffic, short distances between Swiss cities (because of the country's small size) and the often difficult terrain, they do not attain speeds higher than 200 km/h (ICE3) or 160 km/h (TGV, ICE1, ICE2). The fastest Swiss trains are the ICN tilting trains, operated by the Swiss Federal Railways since May 2000. They can reach higher speeds than conventional trains on the curve-intensive Swiss network, however the top speed of 200 km/h can only be reached on high-speed lines. The former Cisalpino consortium owned by the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia used Pendolino tilting trains on two of its international lines. These trains are now operated by the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia.

To address transalpine freight and passenger bottlenecks on its roads and railways, Switzerland launched the Rail 2000 and AlpTransit projects. The first stage of the Rail2000 project finished in 2005, included a new high-speed rail track between Bern and Olten with an operating speed of 200 km/h. AlpTransit project is building faster north-south rail tracks across the Swiss Alps by constructing base tunnels several hundred metres below the level of the current tunnels. The 35 km Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007 where New Pendolino trains run at 250 km/h. The 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel (Top speed 250 km/h) is scheduled to open in 2016. The second stage of Rail 2000 includes line upgrades in canton Valais (200 km/h) and between Biel and Solothurn (200 km/h). The start of work is planned for 2012–2016. However, the slow speed of lines between the Alptransit tunnels (Ceneri Base Tunnel, Gotthard Base Tunnel and Zimmerberg Base Tunnel to name but a few) means that the capacity of Zürich-Milan services will remain limited until the speeds can be increased, given the strong negative effect of mixed rail speeds on capacity.

See also