Projects and background

More services and new trains in long-distance transport

With its planned re-entry into the long-distance transport market, BLS wants to offer passengers more services, more frequent direct connections without changes as well as new trains. To this end, it has applied to the Federal Office of Transport for a licence for two Intercity and three RegioExpress long-distance lines. This creates healthy competition, giving the railway system new impetus. Reviving the public transport system provides increased value for money for customers and public authorities.

A monopoly has been present in Switzerland in long-distance transport since 2004 – all long-distance lines are operated by SBB. The state invited various different railway companies to actively take part in liberalising the long-distance railway transport market. The aim is to revive the Swiss railway system by means of competition and create noticeable added value compared with the current monopoly situation. BLS is prepared to provide new impetus and operate a small proportion of long-distance services alongside SBB. With its application for a long-distance transport licence, BLS wants to offer passengers more direct rail connections and improved service on board. As of the 2020 timetable, BLS wants to start to serve the following long-distance transport lines little by little:

  • Two Intercity lines: Basel–Interlaken Ost and Basel–Brig.
  • Three RegioExpress lines: Bern–Biel, Bern–Olten and Bern–Le Locle. These three lines are part of an extensive expansion of the RegioExpress network that BLS wants to implement in the coming years, working with the cantons and regions.

Personal assistance, catering and high-quality data reception

The customers in all BLS long-distance trains are to benefit from personal conductors, the option of buying tickets on board and a modern catering service. BLS wants to give its passengers, especially tourists in the Bernese Oberland and Upper Valais, high-quality, stable data connections, based on WLAN, for example. BLS has also become the first Swiss railway company to have already incorporated special windows for unobstructed mobile reception in many trains, which it achieved with the help of industrial partners and ETH Lausanne.

The new long-distance transport lines will allow BLS to grow moderately with the creation of 290 new jobs. Integrating the services into the existing BLS network will help BLS to tap into its full potential without bringing about higher costs for the tax payers. Passengers, regions and public authorities will benefit from better use of vehicles and more train-kilometres for their money.

The planned long-distance transport network Network map

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    Video Why does BLS want to independently operate long-distance transport?

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      FAQs Questions and answers

      1. Why does BLS want to operate new long-distance trains in the future?

      The state invited various different railway companies to actively take part in liberalising the long-distance railway transport market. The aim is to revive the Swiss railway system with competition and create noticeable added value for passengers compared with the current monopoly situation. BLS is prepared to revive the railway system with new impetus and operate a small proportion of long-distance services alongside SBB. It needs its own long-distance transport licence in order to actively contribute in this respect.

      2. Won’t the railway system become more expensive and complicated if BLS operates long-distance trains alongside SBB too?

      We believe that a healthy mixture of cooperation and competition encourages all railway companies to improve their value for money. An imbalance would only arise if cherry picking occurs. BLS is therefore applying for a balanced packet of unprofitable and profitable long-distance transport lines. Besides, harmonisation in railway systems is necessary and works well in Switzerland. BLS regional trains actually already travel on the SBB network and SBB trains travel on the BLS network. The control centres make sure that connections etc. are ensured and delays are minimised for all railway companies in the event of a disruption. BLS will not compromise this important coordination.

      3. How does BLS want to improve the service?

      Passengers are to benefit from ultra-modern trains. Conductors are also earmarked for all Intercity and RegioExpress services as well as the option of purchasing tickets on trains. BLS wants to offer passengers a modern catering service (restaurant and catering zones on IC trains, catering zones on RE trains). A high-quality data connection such as WLAN and unobstructed mobile reception will be part of BLS’s modern train service.

      4 How will the cantons and regions benefit from BLS's long-distance transport services?

      Additional lines will allow BLS to utilise its potential and resources in an optimal way. The cantons would thus see an increase in train kilometres for their money. BLS could also invest in new trains without creating additional costs for the tax payers as the long-distance services will ultimately pay for themselves. Regions such as Bern, the Bernese Oberland, Upper Valais and Romandy would benefit from new direct services and state-of-the-art trains.

      5 What does the re-entry into the long-distance transport market mean for BLS and its staff?

      If BLS receives the licence from the state, it will enjoy a moderate growth. Over the next few years, the current number of 3,100 members of staff at BLS would be supplemented by 290 new positions. The gradual expansion would mean that BLS can train its own staff to a large extent. Owing to its very progressive, family-friendly working conditions and market-rate wages, it is an attractive employer on the job market.

      6. Does the competition in long-distance transport mean that BLS will no longer work with other railway companies such as SBB?

      The Swiss railway system works very well thanks to the close partnership of all companies involved. BLS does not want to compromise this cooperation in any way. It is continuing to work very closely with all public transport partners. On the other hand, BLS is convinced that a small amount of competition brings new ideas and impetus that will improve the value for money for customers and purchasers in public transport. SBB is also continuing to grow at an above-average rate in long-distance transport.

      7 Which rolling stock does BLS want to use to operate its long-distance transport lines?

      BLS wants to buy new long-distance trains for Basel–Interlaken and Basel–Brig. For RegioExpress lines, we want to use the latest generation of Stadler double-decker MUTZ trains and FLIRT trains.

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