Switzerland; the Best Public Transport System in the World?
Travelling around the Jungfrau region of Switzerland was so easy, and tension-free!
We had a Swiss Travel Pass, which allowed us unlimited travel (First Class when available) on a wide selection of trains, boats and buses, plus entrance to more than 480 museums.
Cable cars/funiculars are not included in the ticket, but you do get a 50% discount if you hold a Swiss Travel Pass.
Everywhere we travelled, it was spotless, punctual and efficient.
A lot of the Swiss don’t own a car because they don’t need one. It’s so simple for them to catch a bus or a train to work.
We didn’t realise at first that it was a silent carriage, where you’re not allowed to talk or make any noise.
There’s a sign with a warning, a raised finger on the window.
It was strange at first, then really relaxing after our local trains with people selfishly shouting for ages on their mobiles, and tinny music escaping from headphones.
High, skinny waterfalls popped out of rocks and dropped straight down like lengths of Swiss lace.
Stunning scenery burst out between the trees, sometimes different and contrasting on both sides, with green, peaceful beauty out of one window, snow on top of mountain peaks, and violent, volcanic grey prehistoric fury seen from the other.
We cruised past the neatest allotments that I’ve ever seen. They didn’t have sheds; they had chalets!
The train travelled steeply uphill. It created an optical illusion. The houses that we passed all seemed to be sloping sideways.
I imagined all their furniture nailed to the floor, and the inhabitants struggling up across the floorboards, hanging on to lengths of rope to reach their kitchen!
Strangely, although everywhere was neat and tidy, we didn’t see any animals or humans for miles. Just loads of lush, empty fields with no cows, sheep or horses grazing in them Then we passed a recently-mown sloping field, and a man walking his dog.
Railway stations are outside, with no entrance or exit.
The rails are on the same level as the platforms and you walk across them from platform to platform. And when a train stops, a step slides out as the door opens. So it’s practically effortless to lift your suitcase on board.
Nobody shouts, ‘Mind the gap!’ because there isn’t one!
We visited Brientz, which is famous for its woodcarving, including violins and cuckoo clocks.
Lake Brienz is a strange green colour. The water comes from glaciers, and brings sediment and algae with it.
It used to get waste from farmers and cheesemakers dumped in it, and the fish were large and happy. Now that it’s a lot cleaner, the fish don’t grow so big!
With our Travel Pass, we could spend the day on the lake, and get on and off if we wanted to.
The boats run hourly with 5- 6 stops.
Again, we were in the 1st Class area, where we had a lovely lunch.
I had pike, from one of the lakes, with a glass of Swiss beer.
We were staying in Wengen for a couple of nights.
Like several of the mountain towns, Wengen doesn’t have any cars. Small vehicles like golf trollies or milk-floats run around, making deliveries from the trains and carrying luggage to the hotels.
We did need to be careful when strolling in the middle of the empty roads, as they purred silently up behind us. Imagine being involved in a traffic accident in a town with no cars!
There’s not even a road to the town. Everything arrives by train. And there are helicopter pads around the area too, for VIPs and emergencies.
A very good medical centre is in the town. Obviously, in a popular skiing area, they’re experts at mending broken limbs!
From Wengen we travelled by train every day to various places which I’ll be writing about in another article soon.
Would I return to Switzerland, and would I recommend it to my friends?
Yes and yes!
The Sunday night before my Switzerland trip, I arrived back from Belgium at St Pancras Station to find the whole lot shut for Engineering Maintenance.
I had to go outside and get on a bus to Blackfriars Bridge.
A bus pulled up with Blackfriars on it and I asked the driver if he was a rail replacement.
He kept shouting, ‘Get on, quick!’ whilc taxis and cars hooted behind us.
I waved my ticket at him and repeated, ‘Are you replacing the trains?’
‘Just get on!’ he shouted, leaving me to struggle up a couple of big steps with two heavy cases and a bag.
Then off he jumped, jerked and braked, through the London traffic while I clutched my bags and tried to stop them sliding down the bus.
At Blackfriars Station, there was nobody around to ask advice from.
I finally got on a train to Haywards Heath which they must have hauled out of a scrap yard for the occasion.
We crawled along, stopping in the middle of nowhere every few miles.
All the paint was chipped, the carpets were partly missing, and every time another train went past there was a loud explosion and the doors partially flew open.
I was over an hour late home and I only had a few hours’ sleep before leaving for Switzerland.
When I got back to Heathrow from Zurich, I got on my coach but there was no driver! He was stuck on the M25 for three hours due to the volume of traffic.
At last he arrived and he and the previous driver discussed what to do as his three hours travelling to work counted against his driving time.
Driver No 1 didn’t have enough time left to take the coach, and Driver No 2 was now three hours short. And there was no spare driver.
In the end, both drivers travelled on the coach, one to drive there and one to drive it back.
Isn’t it time we kidnapped the Swiss Transport Minister and forced him to sort out our transport?
On the other hand, I’m sure that I could do it easily – after all, I’m an expert!
I wonder, how many of our MPs actually have to use our Public Transport System? Maybe they’d do something about it if they did!
For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call our Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or e-mail, for information firstname.lastname@example.org; for packages, trains and air tickets email@example.com.
Swiss International Air Lines
UK to Zurich:
SWISS offers up to 110 weekly flights from London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester to Zurich. Fares start from £63* one-way. Our fares include all airport taxes: one piece hold luggage and free ski carriage (exclude “hand luggage only” fare). (*Please note this is a leading fare and is subject to change, availability and may not be available on all flights. Terms and conditions apply.) For reservations call 0845 6010956 or visit: www.swiss.com
UK & Ireland to Switzerland:
SWISS operates up to 200 weekly flights to Switzerland from London Heathrow, London City, London Gatwick (seasonal during winter), Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin from as little as £38 one-way* (Geneva Economy Light Fare only includes hand luggage). The all-inclusive fares start from £63 one-way*, including all airport taxes.
(*Please note this is a leading fare and is subject to change, availability and may not be available on all flights. Terms and conditions apply.) For reservations call 0845 6010956 or visit: www.swiss.com.
Swiss Travel System
By road, rail and waterway throughout Switzerland: The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination.Prices are £104 in second class and £167 in first class.
For the ultimate Swiss rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk.
Thomson Lakes & Mountains (www.thomsonlakes.co.uk; 020 8939 0740) offers a three-nights stay at the four-star Hotel Belvedere in Wengen, Switzerland, from £431 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from London on Swiss and transfers departing in September.
Thomson Lakes & Mountain (www.thomsonlakes.co.uk and 020 8939 0740) offers a week’s half board at the four-star Hotel Silberhorn in Wengen from £748 per person (based on two sharing) including flights with Swiss from London to Zurich and train transfers. Direct flights available from all major UK airports