One thing is for sure: the timetable is the heart of the railway. And so, when this heart finds a new beat, the timetable changes on the second Sunday of every December. This “heartbeat of the railway” sets the rhythm for passengers as well as for SBB employees.
The fact that the upcoming timetable change was shaped by the Gotthard has been well-publicised in the meantime. Passengers travelling from north to south will save 30 minutes and, from spring 2017, visitors can travel along the mountain route on the Gotthard Panorama Express or weekend special event trains. This raises the question: what else will be happening from 11 December 2016?
First let’s take a look at the SwissPass, which is undergoing continual development. Since 1 November 2016, customers with a Half-Fare travelcard on their SwissPass have been able to leave their red card in their bags – showing a ticket bought on SBB Mobile or SBB.ch is sufficient. The SwissPass will then be upgraded further in spring 2017: the modular travelcard (see next section) and monthly and annual travelcards from the very first networks, the Vaud fare network and Geneva regional fare network, will be added. There will also be some new Ticketcorner partner ski resorts and Snow’n’Rail offers starting from the coming winter sports season. In addition, new partner services will be integrated onto the SwissPass in the form of Europcar, Hotelcard, Swiss Rent a Ski and Greenmotion.
The range of tickets will be expanded. A key innovation here is the modular travelcard, which will be introduced across Switzerland from early April 2017. It enables routes to be combined with local regional transport networks and their rail networks. With the Children’s Co-travelcard, any companion over the age of 16 years can now travel on public transport with a child under 16 for CHF 30 per year; the Grandchild travelcard will be integrated into this service. And companions now include not just parents or grandparents but neighbours, aunts, uncles, friends or childminders. Finally, specific fares will also be adjusted in line with the timetable change: the price of 1st and 2nd class single tickets will go up by an average of 2.5 percent, for example.
Easily recognisable on the move.
Those who travel regularly by train will not fail to notice that SBB is introducing a new uniform for its 2,500 members of staff on the train crew to mark the timetable change. The most striking feature of the new uniform has got to be the red collar – customers will be able to identify SBB employees more easily in future. The uniform for the 1,800 staff at ticket counters will follow gradually over the course of next year, meaning around 4,300 SBB employees will be sporting the new uniform.
Anyhow, back to the heartbeat of the railway. The question still remains – what will actually happen during the night between 10 and 11 December 2016? Nothing, in fact, meaning no-one will be pressing a button or turning a switch when it gets to midnight. The timetable will change in completely unspectacular fashion and you won’t be able to see any visible change when it does. Except that the heart of the railway will then start beating to a slightly different rhythm.