Passengers will soon be able to travel non-stop from Lake Geneva to Interlaken, thanks to an innovation allowing trains to ride on different types of tracks in one journey.
Tourist trains through the Alps are very popular, but it's less than convenient if passengers have to change too many times. With lots of luggage in tow, there's potential for confusion. At the moment, passengers on the GoldenPassExternal link train from Montreux to Interlaken, have to change in Zweisimmen. The narrow-gauge MOB External linktrains (from Montreux to Zweisimmen) cannot continue on the standard gauge tracks of the BLS External linkcompany, which operates from Zweisimmen to Interlaken Ost.
Technical solution: a world premier
It has taken the train companies decades to find a technical solution to allow trains to switch gauges mid-journey, and almost imperceptibly. It's the first device of its kind in the world. Engineers have installed two gauge changers across four tracks at Zweisimmen railway station.
These force the gauge adjustment of the wheels on the bogies while adapting the height of the carriages to a different platform height (bogies are structures underneath railway vehicles to which wheels are attached.) By the end of April 2019, 760 test runs had been carried out on the new system, with no problems being reported.
The new GoldenPass Express trains will run between Montreux and Interlaken from December 2020, provided the service gets the green light from the Swiss government. The total journey will still take about three hours. The project budget is around CHF76 million ($75 million).
Out of the 2.6 million passengers using the line each year, 85% are tourists. It's hoped the numbers will double with the new express line. Isabella Ignacchiti Drüeke, communications chief at Swiss Travel System AGExternal link, which is responsible for the worldwide marketing of Switzerland’s public transport network, says having more room for luggage on the GoldenPass trains, and not having to change trains, will make the service more attractive, especially for visitors who only have a few days to tour the country.