New BLS workshops

Why new workshops are needed

More than 400 employees in four workshops work day and night to ensure that BLS passengers can commute and travel in clean, well-maintained trains. Maintenance is the backbone of the railway’s reliable operation. If things are to remain that way, BLS needs to prepare its workshop for the continually expanding range of services and longer trains.

The plan is for S-Bahn Bern to continuing running efficiently and reliably in the future, however BLS needs to modernise its maintenance facilities to ensure this. From 2025, BLS trains are to be kept going at two modernised sites, Spiez and Bönigen, as well as in a new facility to the west of the City of Bern.

Why BLS needs modern workshops

Maintaining locomotives and trains is the backbone of every railway company.

If trains are serviced regularly and to a good standard, they can travel in a reliable, clean and safe way. BLS passengers should arrive on time and at ease.

This should be the case in the future too. There are a variety of fundamental reasons why the current workshops are being expanded and modernised:

  • More and more people are travelling with BLS. They currently amount to 150,000 passengers a day, and this is forecast to rise to some 260,000 passengers in 2030.
  • The newer and more modern trains need considerably longer concourse and track facilities.
  • The older workshops are long in the tooth. The Oberburg workshop is expected to be abolished in 2025, owing to its age.
  • The Aebimatt facility to the west of Bern Station is expected to no longer be available in 2020 because of construction work at Bern Station.

BLS currently performs maintenance on 132 trains and 84 locomotives. Every train and locomotive visits one of the workshops once a week.

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    Three BLS workshops from 2025 onwards

    BLS wants to ensure that its fleet can be maintained at three sites in the long term so that S-Bahn Bern can continue to operate efficiently and powerfully in the future.

    Spiez workshop

    The Spiez facilities will be completely overhauled over the next few years to provide light maintenance on BLS’s eastern route network for coming generations.

    Bönigen workshop

    The Bönigen workshop will be converted and renovated in a transition stage to ensure heavy maintenance for larger repairs. In the longer term, it will be converted into a competence centre for all heavy maintenance work.

    New construction planned in Chliforst Nord

    In 2016, BLS AG’s board of directors decided to follow the recommendation of the “BLS workshop” monitoring group and plan a new construction in Chilforst Nord to the west of Bern as well as the Spiez and Bönigen workshops. Working in close partnership, the City of Bern, the Canton of Bern and the affected population are expected to create Switzerland’s most modern competence centre for light-weight maintenance of trains by 2025.

    More capacity in Givisiez

    In order to bridge the transitional period between the discontinuation of the Bern-Aebimatt workshop (2020) and the planned commissioning of a new construction (2025), BLS has signed an agreement with Transports publics fribourgeois (tpf). BLS can rent temporary workshop tracks from tpf in Givisiez, guaranteeing maintenance of vehicles without interruption for the transitional period up to 2025.

    The new construction project

    Two modernisations and one new construction

    The new construction in Chilforst Nord to the west of Bern and the other conversions and expansions in Spiez and Bönigen have a great many advantages:

    • The busy railways lines around Bern will make it more and more difficult for trains to get to the workshops in the future. A facility near central Knoten Bern will help free up the access routes, which will benefit passengers too.
    • The operational stability and flexibility will increase (e.g. quick replacement of defective trains).
    • Fewer and shorter empty trips to the workshops will reduce noise pollution for local residents as well as power consumption.
    • Concentrating on three sites instead of four will allow for work forces to be planned in a more flexible way.
    • Better utilisation of the workshop infrastructure will reduce operating costs – which is also in the interests of passengers and tax payers.

    New construction in Chliforst Nord

    After assessing 42 different sites in detail, the broad-based monitoring group “BLS workshop” recommended the Chliforst Nord area west of the City of Bern as the most suitable place for a new construction. The BLS Board of Directors has decided to follow this recommendation.

    Dialogue group monitoring the planning process

    BLS is aware of the impact the project in Chliforst Nord will have on residents and the surrounding landscape. BLS therefore wants to give these residents, landowners and stakeholders a participatory role in the process that extends beyond the norm. To this end, BLS has established a special dialogue group that will play an active role in the planning process. This group will lend a voice to local stakeholders and interest groups and help lead to the best possible solutions for both people and the environment.

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