Easter traffic premiere in the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT): What are the challenges? SBB service planner Dimitri Berli talks about the expected rush, 44,000 additional seats and alternatives for hikers and excursionists.
Dimitri Berli, is SBB ready for the rush of travellers on Easter?
We have done everything possible to prepare ourselves for the Easter traffic. We are basically ready and expecting large numbers of travellers, especially to Ticino and Italy. The capacities here are certainly a big challenge. We are trying to provide as many relief trains as possible. In other words, we are putting on an additional train right before or after a scheduled train. This will allow us to double the capacities of the connections that are in highest demand.
What tricky issues are you dealing with?
In addition to national and international trains, there are also several S-Bahn systems and transit freight traffic that run on the Gotthard axis. This line is thus heavily utilised and there is almost no free train path capacity. All trains operating through the GBT must also meet special safety requirements, so not all trains are allowed through. What’s more, double-deck trains, which have significantly more capacity than single-deck trains, cannot yet run on the Gotthard axis. Naturally, all of these factors increase the operational challenges.
And how can you counteract this?
We are offering an extra 44,000 seats for connections to Ticino. For one thing, 25 additional trains will be running. For another thing, we are maximising the capacity of regular trains with additional coaches. For travellers from Zurich to Locarno, direct trains will also be available during peak days.
What about transporting bikes?
As mentioned, the Gotthard Base Tunnel has certain safety requirements. For this reason bike reservations are compulsory. Alternatively, from Good Friday to Easter Monday the «Gotthard Weekender» will be running from Zurich to Bellinzona and back with stops along the Gotthard panoramic route. It is ideal for hikers and excursionists and has space for bicycles and luggage. You do not need to make bike reservations on these trains.
What are your ultimate tips for Easter travellers heading south?
Most importantly: Plan your trip in good time! We also recommend that passengers to Ticino avoid the EC trains and make seat reservations. For travellers from Zurich the best option is to use the trains running hourly at xx.32. If you are coming from Basel/Lucerne and getting on in Arth-Goldau, use the trains running hourly at xx.18. Apart from that, we generally advise travellers to switch to the additional trains. In addition, customer assistants will be happy to provide travellers with information in Zurich, Arth-Goldau, Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona.
Information and travel tips for Easter: SBB Timetable
More information on travelling with bicycles: www.sbb.ch/en/bike.