SWITZERLAND: Swiss Federal Railways and regional operator BLS have submitted separate bids to the Federal Transport Office to run long-distance passenger services under the concession which is due to come into effect from December.

The SBB bid includes joint operations with SOB to be managed under a long-term co-operation agreement. Originally a ‘multi-railway’ bid was to have been submitted jointly by SBB, SOB and BLS, but in February BLS decided that it would submit its own bid. BLS said on September 8 that it had made moves to accommodate SBB, withdrawing an earlier plan to compete for traffic on the Zürich – Bern route via Aarau.

The final BLS bid is for two Intercity and three RegioExpress routes. BLS Intercity services from Interlaken to Bern and Basel Intercity would start in 2022, followed by a Brig – Bern – Basel service from 2023; both routes would use new long-distance rolling stock. The three RegioExpress routes would be: Bern – Olten from 2020; Biel – Bern from 2020 and Le Locle – Bern from 2022. The first two of these would be operated with ‘Mutz’ double-deck EMUs and the third with the latest generation of Flirt trainsets. BLS said it would invest around SFr495m in new rolling stock, which BLS Management Board Chairman Bernard Guillelmon felt would offer ‘high-quality service’.

BLS believes the routes would fit well with its existing network and that three of the five could be operated profitably. A detailed business plan accompanied its submission, and BLS Board President Rudolf Stämpfli commented that ‘we are firmly convinced that competition will stimulate the rail system ... to the benefit of the customer’. He added that the proposed routes would not weaken ‘the dominant player’, adding that that BLS remained open for negotiations.

BLS last operated long-distance trains in December 2004, when it swapped them for S-Bahn services in the Bern area.