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The Cisalpino near Airolo (Ticino).

2 June 2011

The Cisalpino Nears the End of the Line

Basel Switzerland - The Cisalpino tilting train, the Pendolino, that travels between Switzerland and Italy is to be withdrawn at the end of 2014.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 17 May 2011, 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 percent, compared with the 92.4 percent on the rest of Swiss Federal Railways network.
As a result of all the breakdowns and un-punctuality, the federal railways has decided to invest CH 12 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 CH 1 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.
Robert Brookes.

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