INTRO: Switzerland’s major programme of infrastructure upgrades is being implemented on the basis of market-driven projects, carefully tailored to contribute to an overall improvement in the speed, capacity and ease of use of the rail network. Paul Moser, SBB’s Manager, Major Projects, revealed to Reinhard Christeller why the SFr7·4bn Bahn 2000 programme is a success story in the making

MORE THAN 100 years after the first railways were built in Switzerland, its people voted on December 6 1987 in favour of a programme of major improvements to the country’s public transport system. Bahn 2000 was born, aiming to provide more frequent services at half-hourly intervals on most Intercity routes, as well as more through trains. Journey times between major cities were to be shortened by 15%, and by 8% across the Swiss Federal Railways network, with new trains and improved station facilities providing a better travelling environment for passengers.

Twelve years later, more than half of the individual projects have been completed, and many of the improvements promised by Bahn 2000 are already a daily reality. ’Once we had made up our mind on what kind and level of service we wanted to offer, we had to define the best measures to bring them into being’, says SBB’s Manager, Major Projects, Paul Moser. ’First we only thought of building new lines, but costs skyrocketed to SFr20bn and we found out that capacity could be increased considerably by simpler measures such as resignalling the busiest routes to reduce headways from 3to 2min.’

Double-deck Intercity trains with up to 1400 seats further increase line capacity, and converting virtually all trains into push-pull units with the subsequent reduction of shunting movements helps increase capacity for incoming and outgoing trains at major stations. ’On lines where speed and not capacity is the critical factor, tilting trains with 470 seats are the answer’, says Moser.

Cheaper solutions

The basis for Bahn 2000 was laid down in 1982 when SBB introduced a network-wide regular-interval timetable. The idea was to convert major stations into hubs where all trains arrive shortly before the hour or half-hour and all leave a few minutes later, allowing all possible connections between services without a long wait for the passenger. This required journey times of less than 1h between the hubs, and Bahn 2000 is completing the grid.

From this general requirement, SBB was able to determine where new lines would have to be built and where other less costly measures would suffice. Taking inflation into account, the SFr5·4bn allocated to Bahn 2000 by the federal government in 1987 is now worth SFr7·4bn. With over 85% of Bahn 2000 projects completed or with contracts let, SBB expects the total cost to be SFr6·4bn and hopes to achieve further reductions.

Bringing the cost of the project down will have a significant impact on SBB’s bottom line. Back in 1987, it was accepted that investment required under the Bahn 2000 programme would increase SBB’s annual deficit by SFr330m. But it was only on November 29 1998 that voters decided in a referendum where the money to fund Bahn 2000 and other major rail projects should come from, namely two-thirds of the SFr30·5bn to be raised in lorry and petrol taxes, evenly distributed over 20 years.

To keep its deficit under control, SBB’s contribution to Bahn 2000 could only be 25% of the total cost at most. Even with the capital cost of Bahn 2000 revised downwards and ridership expected to increase once all projects are completed, the latest calculations indicate that the programme will have a negative impact on SBB finances, but the funding gap has narrowed from SFr330m to SFr40m. The total cost of Bahn 2000 will be reviewed again in 2001 and 2005, and SBB hopes that the current upward trend in passenger traffic and further cost reductions will bring the shortfall closer to zero.

Staged introduction

Bahn 2000 is being introduced in stages, with a major improvement for customers introduced every two years. In 1997, the first IC-2000 double-deck trains entered service, and work to rebuild Aarau station was completed. The 6·3 km Grauholz tunnel on the Zürich - Bern main line had been completed in 1995, enabling half-hourly service to be provided throughout the day between Fribourg, Bern, Zürich and St Gallen. This boosted ridership by 12%.

Routes into Luzern were upgraded in 1999, enabling the introduction of a half-hourly Zürich Airport - Luzern service operated with double-deck rolling stock. Direct Genève - Luzern trains were reintroduced.

This year should see the first ICN tilting trains running between Zürich and Lausanne via Biel. Following the completion of double-tracking along Lake Neuchâtel, journey times on this line will equal those via Bern, and alternate departures will provide two direct trains every hour between Zürich, Lausanne and Genève.

In 2003 a new double-track alignment between Zürich and Thalwil will increase capacity and reduce journey times to Luzern and Chur, thus making the Vereina line serving the tourist destination of the lower Engadine valley even more attractive (RG 11.99 p707). This project will also help to separate long-distance traffic from Zürich S-Bahn trains, providing more capacity for both.

The Bahn 2000 programme will be completed in 2005. The missing link between Zürich and Bern, the 45 km Mattstetten - Rothrist cut-off, will allow 15min to be cut from the present journey time, bringing it down to under 1h. Bern and a few minor cities will become fully-fledged hubs for regular-interval services, and the integration of timetables will be complete. Further enhancements to Bahn 2000 are planned between 2010 and 2020; SFr5·9bn of financing has been agreed, but the projects have not yet been defined.

After a slow start in the 1980s, when funding had yet to be secured, Bahn 2000 projects are now under way at full speed. All projects are reported to be on schedule with costs well under control. Amongst the major projects, Mattstetten - Rothrist has been priced at SFr1·6bn, more than 21% of the cost of Bahn 2000. Together with a 4·5 km second track between Killwangen-Spreitenbach and Dietikon due for completion in 2002-03, the new link should provide a second double-track route between Zürich and Bern, equipped with ERTMS/ETCS signalling for a maximum speed of 200 km/h.

For alignment and environmental reasons, almost 14 km will be in tunnel, including the 4·7 km Murgenthal tunnel completed in October 1998. Four junctions with the existing line will allow flexibility of operation and maximise the capacity benefits, with the line to Lausanne via Biel using part of the new alignment.

Capacity improvements in the Zürich area are costing SFr1·3bn. As the number of trains entering and leaving Zürich HB will rise by almost 40% (RG 12.98 p857), the tracks into Switzerland’s busiest station must be untangled. The main problem is posed by the Basel - Chur service that at present arrives using the northernmost track into the station and must cross over to leave on the southern side, blocking all other train movements. A new line from Zurich-Altstetten and a flyover to segregate this movement from other trains will be built by 2005.

Although the present 1400 train movements a day at Zürich HB will be increased, by converting all trains to push-pull operation, the 5 000 daily shunting movements will be reduced to a minimum. By using double-deck rolling stock, platform and train lengths will not be increased beyond 14 cars or 420m.

Most of the lines feeding into Zürich are also being upgraded. Apart from the additional 10·7 km line to Thalwil, of which 9·4 km is in tunnel, a third track will be added between T