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Trains heading to Bern from Zurich now go through Olten. In fact, Olten is the crux of the entire rail system directing trains to each corner of Switzerland. If something goes wrong in Olten, the entire rail system will screech to a halt.
With transport minister Doris Leuthard last week announcing more investment in infrastructure—and higher ticket costs for travelers—dream proposals are coming out of the woodwork.
One of those would cut time to Bern from Zurich to just 28 minutes by building a high-speed stretch bypassing Olten.
ROMAN MARTI: Several times, we heard of this idea.
Roman Marti is a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Railway.
MARTI: The challenge is the capacity. But another question is of course how can we make the train correspondences even faster. So there are like two different kind of views to future train construction projects: One is capacity, and the other is how to make the trains faster.
Though Marti says the railways only build or plan based on the will of voters or politicians, he breaks down the rail debate into these two camps. In many ways the debate is a non-starter though, because a plan is already in motion.
MARTI: There are a lot of projects waiting to be realized in a plan called Bahn Railway 2030. The big question is, how can we fund these projects? Where will the money come from?
Marti says there are 21 billion francs worth of projects waiting to be built, so any shift in policy or addition of high-speed lines as suggested for Bern and Zurich, would come after the current plans are carried out.
ULRICH WEIDMANN: Whatever you do it will be a very expensive project and that means that the projects should spend as much advantages as possible; that means not only capacity but, in addition, speed.
Ulrich Weidmann is a professor of transport systems for the ETH technical university in Zurich. He is a proponent of strategic high-speed stretches on Swiss rails and doesn’t think capacity and speed are mutually exclusive.
WEIDMANN: I think it’s very important to discuss these propositions not as ideas which exclude one the other but which maybe combine very well.
WILLIAM (A TRAIN PASSENGER): I don’t care; I’ve paid for this time so it’s the same to me.
Passengers, like William here, are mixed in an unofficial poll it seemed sentiment was for more trains, instead of faster ones. One woman commented that less than an hour between Zurich and Bern is fast enough. Switzerland is well connected she said.
But the debate on how to keep it that way, carries on.
—Tony Ganzer, World Radio Switzerland, Zurich