February 29, 2024

Direct trains to Rome soon twice a day?

SBB's Girono trains will be seen frequently in Italy in the future.Image: www.imago-images.de

Traveling abroad by train is becoming increasingly popular. SBB now wants to expand the offer with direct trains, especially towards Italy. There are even ideas circulating to reach out to Copenhagen. But there are still many problems.

Stefan Erbar/Media

Florence, Rome, Turin: these are the cities that travelers to Italy can soon reach by train without changing trains. Because SBB and Italian Railways are planning to expand communications.

“We are discussing with Trenitalia whether we can offer direct trains to Florence or Turin in the future,” Vincent Ducrot, president of SBB, told CH Media at the beginning of December.

“The demand for it is increasing sharply.”

SBB President Vincent Ducrot

A rumor is now circulating on railway forums that Italian Railways could in the future run its high-speed trains from Rome via Florence to Zurich twice a day.

In return, SBB will provide day trips from Zurich to the Piedmont capital Turin and to Livorno on the Tuscan coast with Gerono trains.

A person familiar with the planning will confirm relevant discussions. Nothing is final yet. One problem is that Trenitalia's Frecciarossa trains, which the manufacturer calls ETR 1000, cannot travel to Switzerland. But in November, Trenitalia ordered 30 new trains, which can also be operated in this country.

The first compositions are expected to be delivered from spring 2026. Trains will currently be necessary for such a connection because SBB cannot travel to Rome with its Girono trains. These are not approved for Italian high-speed lines.

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Directly to Florence

SBB and Trenitalia are interested in continuing their cooperation, said SBB spokeswoman Sabrina Schellenberg. However, there are still no concrete plans for trains to Rome, Livorno and Turin. “Direct flights to Rome with stops in Bologna and Florence will undoubtedly be very interesting,” she says.

However, due to the limited capacity of passenger train routes in the Gotthard base tunnel and the high costs of the ETR-1000 trains, which can travel at up to 350 kilometers per hour and cannot travel at that speed in Switzerland, they are “extremely stretched.” Difficult to implement.

SBB's Girono trains already run several times daily to Milan and once daily from Zurich to Venice, Genoa and Bologna. The last two connections are currently suspended due to the closure of the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

A night train is also planned from Zurich via Domodossola to Rome, which could be extended to Naples. This could be implemented quickly if Parliament passes the new CO2 law and survives a potential referendum.

It provides support for night trains. There is speculation as to whether this train will stop in Bern or in the suburb of Zollikofen, so a change of direction would not be necessary.

Germany tops the rankings

Italy is popular with train travelers: in 2022, 5.1 million trips were counted to and from Italy with a starting or ending point in Switzerland – almost the number recorded in the previous record year of 2019. A new record could be reached this year.

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Italy had a 15 percent share of international train travel last year. Only Germany was more in demand, achieving a 35 percent share with 12.3 million trips, according to Federal Statistics Office figures. From 2026, more ICE trains will run from Germany via Basel to Switzerland – to Zurich and Chur, but also to Bern and Interlaken and, for the first time, to the Commodore.

The expansion of “Deutschlandtakt” is even further away. It is the German government's long-term vision for railway expansion. The Swiss company SMA developed the IPO concept on its behalf.

To Copenhagen twice a day

According to this, direct trains from Switzerland via Hamburg to Copenhagen could run twice a day in the future – once from Zurich and once from Basel. Travel time is stated as 9.5 hours from Zurich to the Danish capital or 8.5 hours from Basel.

However, this is more of a dream than a concrete plan. Trains registered in Switzerland, Germany and Denmark do not yet exist and cannot be purchased on the horizon.

According to SBB spokeswoman Schellenberg, such a connection would also require the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel between Germany and Denmark. This is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2029.

In order to meet the planned travel times, the Rhine Valley Railway in Germany must also be fully developed. Deutsche Bahn (DB) does not expect this to be the case before 2040. DB and the German government did not want to comment on the train to Copenhagen or left a request unanswered.

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