REVENUE-EARNING traffic is due to start running through the Lötschberg base tunnel on June 19, with up to 48 freight trains a day routed through the 38 km bore. They will be followed in August by the first commercial passenger services.
Cisalpino's ETR470 tilting trainsets are expected to use the tunnel from October as a prelude to the December timetable change when all long-distance passenger trains now running via the Lötschberg route will switch to the base tunnel, where 200 km/h will be attained. The same maximum will apply on the Mattstetten - Rothrist line which, like the base tunnel, is fitted with ETCS Level 2.
Faster journeys will become possible on several routes thanks to the introduction of new hourly services such as Romanshorn - Zürich - Visp - Brig. Basel - Milano Cisalpino services will gain around 1 h, but late delivery means that the ETR610 second-generation Cisalpino trainsets will not enter service until well into 2008.
All 14 ETR610 sets are expected to be available by December 2008 when a two-hourly Zürich - Milano service will be launched. Changes to the domestic timetable will include an hourly IC service from Basel to Luzern calling only at Olten, while the hourly non-stop Basel - Zürich service will become half-hourly throughout the day.
Announcing these plans at a press event on May 8, Swiss Federal Railways' Chief Executive Andreas Meyer reported record traffic in 2006 with 285 million passengers representing 14 270 million passenger-km. The trend continued in the first quarter of 2007 with a 4·8% increase over the same period in 2006 - 'we are now reaping the fruits of Bahn 2000', said Meyer. Noting that demand is set to increase by 45% by 2030, he warned that it would be essential for investment in rail infrastructure to continue.