SWITZERLAND: Swiss Federal Railways’ 3 011 route-km network is the busiest in the world, with each km of track carrying an average of 92·7 trains a day during 2008, up from 90·8 in 2007. Total train-path km sold by SBB’s infrastructure division reached 158·7 million, up by 2·5% on the year before.

These are impressive figures, and they are matched by punctuality statistics that put other railways in the shade. SBB’s ‘on time’ criterion was an arrival within 4 min 59 sec of schedule, with a target of 95%, but the margin has now been changed to a tougher 2 min 59 sec, with the performance target relaxed to 90·3% in 2008 SBB’s passenger services achieved 89·7% against this measure. More ambitiously, future statistics will take into account load factors and the number of connections missed.

Of course, achieving high standards comes at a price. Possessions are becoming shorter, and it is increasingly difficult to restrict or suspend traffic, so the cost of maintenance is rising steadily. At the end of April recently-appointed Infrastructure Director Philippe Gauderon reported that SBB had spent SFr871m on renewals and SFr361m on maintenance in 2008.

Around 180 km of track is renewed each year, with maintenance work carried out on 1 300 km. During 2008, 415 000 tonnes of ballast were laid and 225 000 sleepers replaced. Hence SBB is working with its contractors to develop more powerful equipment able to speed up renewals and ensure consistent quality.