Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Could a direct high-speed train link between Switzerland and London soon be a reality?

train going into Eurotunnel
It can take at least 7-8 hours to travel from Geneva to London by train or around 9 hours from Zurich. Keystone / Johan Ben Azzouz

Switzerland to London by train in less than six hours. This is not yet possible, but the prospect of a direct high-speed rail link is picking up speed with the Swiss Federal Railways studying the options with international operators.

Flying to the UK is fairly easy: there are dozens of daily flights from Zurich, Geneva and Basel to cities across the country. Taking a train from Switzerland to London (St Pancras station) is also possible – the fastest and cheapest option is by TGV Lyria and Eurostar – but for all journeys you have to change in Paris between the Gare du Lyon and the Gare du Nord.

When you add on a Métro/taxi ride and check-in and waiting time for your connecting train, the journeyExternal link can start to feel long: at least 7-8 hours from Geneva to London, 8 hours from Basel, 9 hours from Zurich and 9-10 hours from Bern.

Meanwhile, demand for fast international rail links in Europe is high. With the carbon emissions of short-haul flights under the spotlight, many people in Europe have been looking to the continent’s extensive rail network to replace short-haul air travel.

Parliamentarian push

Swiss officials and politicians have therefore been closely studying the possibilities of the UK and Switzerland getting better rail links in the coming years.

Earlier this year, Matthias Aebischer, a Swiss parliamentarian from the left-wing Social Democratic Party, filed a postulateExternal link urging the Swiss government to examine with France and the UK how to establish a direct daily rail connection between Basel and London. This would help meet climate objectives and boost tourism, he argued.

“There are already direct rail connections from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and even with cities such as Lyon and Marseille. It must therefore be possible to do this also for Switzerland, in particular with Basel,” Aebischer wrote.

The government replied that it was “in principle favourable to a direct rail connection between Basel or Geneva and London”. But it explained that any new international rail connections from Switzerland must be organised by the Swiss Federal Railways and a foreign railway company that is willing to invest. The government said it is prepared to examine any relevant applications, but “currently, no such request has been made”.

Aebischer is hopeful that “if everyone pulls together”, a direct connection between Switzerland and London could be possible in less than five years, he told SWI


Interest in a direct Swiss-UK rail link appears to be gaining traction. Speaking at the Swiss Travel Association conference in November, Philipp Mäder, head of international passenger transport at Swiss Federal Railways, confirmedExternal link the company was examining the possible introduction of a direct rail link to London – “the busiest flight destination in Europe”.

“Basel to London in around five hours is possible,” he declared.

Feasibility study

Swiss Federal Railways launched a feasibility study into a direct Swiss-UK link in 2022 that should be completed in 2024.

“We are in a study with SNCF [France’s national state-owned railway company] and Eurostar [the international high-speed rail service in Western Europe, connecting Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK],” Swiss Federal Railways boss Vincent Ducrot toldExternal link the Luzerner Zeitung on December 9.

“If possible, we will introduce a train from Switzerland to London. The destination is very popular. But it has to be doable in under six hours, and only a few people take the train for more than that. We are also discussing with Trenitalia [Italy’s main rail operator] whether we could offer direct trains to Florence or Turin in the future. The demand for it is increasing sharply.”

Matthias Aebischer said it was clear that for a direct connection between Switzerland and London, the train must not run into the centre of Paris.

“We would lose too much time that way. The TGV station at Charles de Gaulle airport would be an alternative,” he said.

Federal Railways spokesperson Sabine Baumgartner refused to give any further details on the possible route under discussion, noting simply that journey times below six hours would in principle be possible for the Basel-London and Geneva-London train routes.

Basel to central London (798 kilometres as the crow flies) takes roughly 10 hours 15 minutes by car, while Geneva to central London (844 km) takes 10 hours 45 minutes.

Expanding Eurotunnel service

In a separate announcement, last week Eurotunnel’s owner, Getlink, saidExternal link new direct high-speed train routes from London to Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva and Zurich could be up and running within five years.

A sleeper train from Zurich to Hamburg


Swiss night trains: past, present and future

This content was published on The Swiss Federal Railways is discussing re-investing in sleeper trains, reacting to a public increasingly sceptical of flying short distances.

Read more: Swiss night trains: past, present and future

Speaking at an event in France, Getlink’s chief executive Yann Leriche said rail could eventually expect to take 30-40% of the airline traffic on the shorter German and Swiss routes from London, journeys of five to six hours by train.

He said new entrants and destinations could now arrive swiftly. Two potential operators, the Spanish rail firm Evolyn and the Dutch train startup Heuro, have publicly declared their interest in rivalling Eurostar. Leriche said he had been in conversation with at least two other players about starting competing operations through the tunnel.

The current service in the Eurotunnel – around 400 trains a day – could be expanded to 1,000, said Getlink’s CEO. There is a potential for one million rail travellers a year between London and Geneva or Zurich, he noted.


Despite the growing interest in a Swiss-UK direct link, huge challenges remain.

Philipp Mäder noted: “The infrastructure is expensive on this route – partly because of the journey through the Eurotunnel.”

Since Brexit, the UK is no longer a member of the European Union. Switzerland is also not in the 27-country bloc but is part of the Schengen zone that enables seamless travel between European countries. Boarding a train in Switzerland for the UK would therefore involve both security and passport controls similar to those required at airports – and new checkpoints and terminal facilities to be built at the appropriate Swiss stations.

“Due to the arrangements governing entry into Great Britain, costly and resource-intensive arrangements would have to be made for departure stations in Switzerland in order to meet the necessary safety requirements. Likewise, due to the high requirements for fire protection, special trains approved for the Eurotunnel would have to be used,” said the Swiss government.

Most Read
Swiss Abroad

Most Discussed

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