HomeSwiss CantonsTicinoTrain to and from Ticino dealing with delays coming...

Train to and from Ticino dealing with delays coming months

Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland is separated from the rest of the country by the Swiss alps. This makes for a unique climate and culture in the canton of Ticino, but also for difficulties travelling across the country. Luckily, the Gotthard base tunnel, opened in 2016, made travelling from Ticino to the rest of Switzerland a breeze.

Longest railway tunnel in the world

The Gotthard Base tunnel opened in June 2016 after nearly 16 years of construction. It connects canton Uri (Erstfeld) with the canton of Ticino (Bodio). With its 57 kilometres, it is the longest railway tunnel in the world. In just 20 minutes, the tunnel allows trains to transport both goods and passengers up to 2450 meter below the alps.

As mountain ranges can heavily influence the weather, the weather conditions can wildly vary from one end of the tunnel to another. You may leave a dull, cold and rainy Uri, only to arrive in a mild and sunny Ticino a mere 20 minutes later. Speak of microclimates! Ticino is one of the warmest regions in Switzerland.

The introduction of the Gotthard Base tunnel significantly simplified travel between central Switzerland and Ticino and Italy. Where trains previously had to travel over the Gotthard Panoramastrecke, the new tunnel slashes travel times with more than an hour. Travel between Lucerne and Lugano only takes about 100 minutes thanks to the tunnel!

In the short time the Gotthard Base tunnel has been in operation, it also has grown into a very important trade link, connecting southern Europe with the rest of the European countries. Over a hundred freight trains use the tunnel on a daily basis.

Gandria Lugano
Travelling to Lugano by train? There will be delays!

Railway accident in Gotthard Base tunnel on August 10 2023

The benefits of the Gotthard Base tunnel came to an abrupt end on August 10, 2023. A freight train coming from Italy likely lost a wheel in the tunnel, leading to the derailment of over 20 train carriages. The derailment did not only litter the tracks with goods falling from the wagons, it also damaged the tunnel over a length of 8 kilometres.

Damages were isolated one of two train tunnels of the Gotthard, but interconnecting doors in the tunnel were damaged too. These doors are used for evacuation purposes in case of an emergency happening in the tunnel.

Initially, the Swiss Railway company SBB/CFF/FFS anticipated that the tunnel possible could be back in use within 6 days from the accident, on August 16. However, on a press conference on August 16, it was announced that disruption would take significantly longer.

Gotthard Base tunnel closed for passenger traffic coming months

Railway company SBB aims to reopen the Gotthard Base tunnel for railway freight transport on August 23. However, they announced that the tunnel might remain closed for passenger traffic for the coming months, as reparations will take up to four months.

However, passenger traffic between Ticino and the rest of Switzerland is not entirely cancelled. Immediately after the accident, all trains normally using the base tunnel rerouted over the Gotthard Panoramastrecke. This leads trains over the mountains, rather than under it. While this route offers some breathtaking views over the alps, it is also considerably slower than the tunnel route. According to SBB, travellers have to count on delays between 60 and 120 minutes with this alternative route.

What to think of when travelling by train from or to Ticino

It is important to keep in mind that the alternative route over the mountains does not have the same capacity as the Gotthard base tunnel. This means that trains to and from Ticino will be fuller than usual. Also, you might not be able to bring your bike with you onboard, depending on how busy the train is. And as mentioned earlier, the trip will take at least 60 minutes longer than usual.

While I normally say that visiting Ticino from central Switzerland is possible for a day trip, that statement is slightly less true with the current situation. Consider spending the night in Ticino rather than having a 3-hour train trip back after an exhausting day of exploring.

The SBB website and timetable has been updated to reflect the alternative route. It is a good idea to keep checking the information from SBB when you are planning your trip, as the situation can change.

While this accident caused a lot of disruption, Ticino still is absolutely worth a visit. It will take a bit longer to get there, but there is plenty to see and do in this canton!

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Originally from the Netherlands, I landed in Luzern, Switzerland in March 2022 after 10 years in Sweden. Now, I aim to explore as much of Switzerland as I can, and share it here!

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