Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

The Cisalpino nears the end of the line

Some people are quite literally sick of it Keystone

The Cisalpino tilting train – the Pendolino - that travels between Switzerland and Italy is to be withdrawn at the end of 2014.

The train has had its fair share of breakdowns and many passengers complained that it made them feel sick in the twisty parts of the line in the Bernese Oberland and to and from the Gotthard tunnel.

The ETR 470, as it’s known to railway buffs, has been criticised over the years, not least because of its tendency to have mechanical failures but also because it was often late.

“We are satisfied about the decision of Swiss Federal Railways to phase out the ETR-470. Trains which have so many breakdowns  are not worthy of the federal railways,” Gerhard Tubandt, spokesman for the Swiss Association for Transport and the Environment, told

“They upset the passengers and damage the reputation of the federal railways which are known for the punctuality of their trains, so it’s a pity that the ETR-470 are not taken out of service earlier but we understand that the federal railways are at full capacity and cannot immediately replace trains.”


At a news conference in Basel on Tuesday, the chief executive of Swiss Federal Railways, Andreas Meyer, did not mince his words. He said the company wanted “put an end to this horror”.

The federal railways took over maintenance work on its four ETR-470s in 2009 and managed to halve the number of breakdown incidents, but that did not bring them up to Swiss standards.

On May 17, one of the trains caught fire in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, which may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I do not want to see such pictures as we saw in Ambri a few days ago again,” Meyer said.

As far as punctuality is concerned, on the main north-south axis, it was only 71.2 per cent, compared with the 92.4 per cent on the rest of Swiss Federal Railways network.


As a result of all the breakdowns and unpunctuality, the federal railways has decided to invest SFr12 million to keep the ETR 470s in service until the end of 2014. There are simply not enough trains to replace them before then, the railways said.

“We are convinced that Swiss Federal Railways does its best to  improve the quality of the connections from Switzerland to Italy,” Tubandt said.

“A first step is now being taken to phase out the ETR 470. Then there are new trains – the  ETR 610 where the federal railways must also make improvements because they have some breakdowns too,” Tubandt said.

“Now we’ve learned from the federal railways they want to use trains which have fewer breakdowns by using other locomotives or trains that have no breakdowns, so that’s the direction they’re going in.”

To that end it expects to put out a tender for rolling stock later this year valued at SFr1 billion as part of its plans for the new Gotthard rail tunnel, which will be the longest rail tunnel in the world when it opens in a few years’ time.

Cisalpino was a joint venture created in 1993 between the Swiss Federal Railways and Trenitalia of Italy.

Its headquarters were located in Muri near the Swiss capital, Bern.

The Swiss and Italians ended their joint operation with Cisalpino in 2009. The Pendolinos were split between Trenitalia (5 ETR 470s) and the Swiss Federal Railways with 4 ETR 470s).

The lack of quality and reliability lead both companies to have a reserve train at each terminus of the Zurich-Milan route.

Maintenance of the four Pendolinos belonging to Switzerland costs four times more than that of the ICN tilting trains of the Swiss Federal Railways.

Swiss television has reported that mechanical parts for the Pendolinos were stolen on two occasions in Milan, a claim confirmed by the Swiss Federal Railways.

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here . Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR