Swiss Railway System

Swiss Railways from Diccon Bewes book, Swiss Watching:

“Gravity-detying mountain trains might be the most famous part of the Swiss railway network, but they actually make up only 150 of the 5000 kilometres of lines nationally. Trains are the workhorses of the Swiss economy, transporting not just tourists and commuters but cargo as well. An impressive 63 per cent of transalpine heavy goods vehicles travel by rail through Switzerland, twice as much as in neighbouring Austria.Loading those mammoth trucks on to trains means less pollution, less traffic and less noise, so everyone wins. But the wonder of the Swiss railway system is not the cargo routes through the mountains, or the big-name rides, such as
the Glacier Express, or even the intercity lines packed with the customers. The wonder of the Swiss transport network is the local services.

Decades after Dr Beeching cut such lines in Britain, the Swiss still regard them as an essential part of the national infrastructure, no matter if they aren’t so well used. The crowded routes bring in the cash to subsidise the less-used ones so that the whole network survives. All very forwardthinking, anti-Darwinian and anti-capitalist to someone brought up on privatisation for profit. For the Swiss it’s local services for local people, and occasionally the odd tourist, to ensure that no community is left off the transport map. To achieve that goal there are buses as well, designed to complement the railways, not replace them. A spidery network of 798 routes with over 2100 Postbuses, all of them bright yellow, carries 121 million passengers a year11 to places the trains can’t reach. But, this being Switzerland, the timetables are coordinated, so that passengers can change quickly from train to bus and back again. The Swiss make it all look so simpie, as if that’s the natural order of things. As if that’s the only way public transport should be. Such coordination is only possible because the Swiss plan the whole system as one.”

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