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Why Swiss transport authorities want to ban German trains

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why Swiss transport authorities want to ban German trains
A regional Deutsche Bahn train bound for Basel leaves Freiburg main station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

The Swiss Federal Office of Transport is proposing stopping Deutsche Bahn trains in the border city of Basel in future rather than see them continue on into Switzerland. The plan has drawn a fair amount of criticism.


Several high-speed Deutsche Bahn trains travel every day from Germany to Swiss cities such as Zurich, Interlaken and Chur.

But delays on the German side often end up disrupting the carefully coordinated Swiss railway timetable; last year, eight of the 10 most frequently delayed trains in Switzerland began their routes in German cities. 

To ease the chaos, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has to keep special trains on standby to replace delayed ICE trains on the Basel-Zurich route, and passengers travelling from Germany to Zurich often have to transfer onto Swiss trains in Basel.

READ ALSO: German trains 'responsible for Switzerland's worst delays'

In response to the persistent unreliability of the German ICE trains, the Swiss Federal Office of Transport has now proposed stopping Deutsche Bahn trains in Basel in its new service concept for 2035.

The plan is that German ICEs will only run as far as Basel, on the Swiss-German border, and passengers will then switch to a Swiss train.

But the plans have already provoked criticism from both Swiss and German politicians. 

The Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch, has called the proposal for the end to the direct connection between Zurich and Germany "unacceptable".


"Fast and direct international train connections are of paramount importance for Zurich. We need an expansion, not a reduction, of international train connections, especially to achieve the Paris climate goals," she said. 

The Mayor of Interlaken, Philippe Ritschard, is also unhappy with the Federal Office of Transport's proposal.

"The direct connection from Berlin to Interlaken is important for our international holidaymakers. They don't want to change trains in Basel; they want to travel through." He called the slowing down of ICE trains in Basel  a "step back into provincialism".

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The German federal government is also unhappy with the plans. Michael Theurer, Germany's representative for rail transport told SonntagsBlick that Germany still wants to send ICE and EC trains to Switzerland.

Despite the challenges, "direct train connections to Switzerland are an essential prerequisite for strong international rail transport," he said. 

However, he acknowledged that the punctuality problem at Deutsche Bahn is a problem that needs to be addressed, adding, "in the next few years, there must be noticeable progress here for customers."


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