Projects and background

Long-distance transport

In September 2017, BLS submitted a licence application to operate five long-distance lines. In June 2018, the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) granted BLS a licence for only two lines, the RE lines Bern–Biel and Bern–Burgdorf–Olten. BLS accepted this decision, whereas SBB lodged a formal complaint against it in July 2018. Since SBB suspended its complaint in July 2019, BLS and BSS have once more been conducting talks. The aim is to find a constructive solution for the benefit of the system as a whole by the third quarter of 2019.

These are the reasons for BLS wanting to become involved in long-distance transport operations:

We want to take responsibility

The demand for public transport facilities in Switzerland is growing. BLS wants to help meet this demand without increasing the cost to taxpayers. To do so, however, BLS must generate profit, which in the realm of passenger transport is only possible on long-distance lines. Profits allow BLS to make investments and develop new services – this is the only way to offer expanded rail travel at the same price.

We are lowering the costs of regional transport

With long-distance lines optimally integrated into our network, we can operate our regional transport services more cost-effectively. For example, if we were to operate the long-distance line to Biel, we could use two fewer trains than the number currently in operation for the regional transport service on this line because we could run the trains more efficiently. The cantons would benefit from this because the payments for regional transport services would be reduced.

We demand a competition of ideas

Allowing different rail operators to apply for individual lines serves as an incentive for all of them to submit the best possible tender and to stand out from the competition in terms of service and quality. For example, with our application we highlighted the fact that, unlike our competitors, we would have been able to provide conductors on the five lines we applied for.


September 2016

Using the “SBB plus X” model, the FOT invites rail operators to tender for long-distance lines. BLS develops a concept with IC lines to Basel and Zurich as well as different RE lines. During intensive talks regarding a collaboration, BLS and SBB ultimately agree that BLS will operate five lines on a commercially independent basis. Here BLS is willing to limit itself to two IC lines to Basel and three RE lines. The chairmen of the boards of directors at BLS and SBB add their voices to the consensus; however, SBB later distances itself from the agreement and the negotiations are discontinued.

September 2017

BLS thereupon submits its own licence application for the above-mentioned five lines.

April 2018

The FOT grants BLS only the two RE lines of Bern–Biel and Bern–Burgdorf–Olten. BLS accepts the decision, but is unable to implement its ideas for an improved service for passengers (conductors and on-board ticket sales) as planned with the two lines, as they simply do not generate enough revenue.

July 2018

SBB lodges a complaint against the granting of the licence. Despite the uncertain legal situation, BLS nevertheless begins preparations to take over the two licensed lines in December 2019 and orders eight MUTZ trains from Stadler. Ordering them at such short notice is possible because BLS is able to buy optioned trains from the original MUTZ purchase from Stadler in 2012.

May 2019

The Federal Administrative Court decides to keep in force the delaying effect of the complaint lodged by the SBB, as demanded by BLS.

July 2019

SBB requests to suspend its complaint with the Federal Administrative Court. BLS and SBB once more conduct talks with the aim of finding a constructive solution for the benefit of the system as a whole by the third quarter of 2019.

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