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Home > Trains > Switzerland > Swiss Rail Hot Spots
By the term "rail hot spot" I mean a place or line where rail traffic is concentrated, often because of 2 or more railway lines joins together. On this page I will try to give a description of some of the swiss rail hot spots, I have visited.

In general:

Switzerland is the most important transit country for rail freight through the Alps. Two major lines cross the swiss alps; the SBB Gotthard route and the BLS route through the Lötschberg and Simplon tunnels. The freight traffic volume by rail over Gotthard in 2012 was 13.9 mio. netto-tonnes, while the volume over BLS was a little lower, 9.8 mio. netto-tonnes. In comparison the volume via Brenner in Austria was 11.2 mio. netto-tonnes and the volume via Mont Cenis in France was 3.4 mio. netto-tonnes. (source:

A hotspot for freight traffic is Basel as transit traffic over Gotthard and BLS between Italy and France, Western Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands normally goes through the Basel area.


The website has useful info. You will find both traditional timetables for passenger trains as well as graphic timetables (under Archiv/Archives/Archivio) that also shows planned freight trains - even though it for freight trains often takes some time searching the internet verifying the actual train number as freight trains may be both ahead or behind schedule - or perhaps not running at all on a specific day. My way of doing this is searching the internet using Google or Bing for a train number and comparing the info and pictures I find, with the pictures I have - is it the same type of wagons, containers from the same companies etc?

Basel area:


In the Basel area Switzerland, Germany and France meet, and Basel is a rail hot spot, especially for freight traffic. The Basel Muttenz yard, a little east of Basel is one of the biggest freight yards i Europa. Some of the trains are shunted here, while other only stop for change of locomotives and/or staff.

SBB Cargo 482 006

SBB Cargo 482 006 with a container train in Pratteln (283 kb, opens in a new window).

Gotthard line (Immensee - Gotthard tunnel):


The Gotthard line is one of two busy north-south railway corridors through the Swiss Alps, the other is the BLS (Bern - Lötschberg - Simplon) line.

The line:

The Gotthard line starts in Immensee and runs south to Chiasso on the border to Italy. In Erstfeld (km 42) the climb to the Gotthard northern tunnel entrance in Gôschenen (km 71) starts. The tunnel itself runs relatively flat to southern tunnel entrance in Airolo (km 87). From Airolo the line descends to around Biasca (km 132). The Gotthard tunnel runs under the Gotthard massive, is 15 km long (there is also a little longer car tunnel) and was opened in 1881. Both on the north and the south side of the Gotthard tunnel the line has a lot of curves to gain (and loose) elevation. A special location is Wassen, where the line passes the famous church in Wassen 3 times.

Passenger trains (status autumn 2010):

Slower IR trains travel the Gotthard line every hour in each direction, alterning between the Basel SBB - Locarno (or Locarno - Basel SBB) route and the Zürich HB - Locarno (or Locarno - Zürich HB) route.

Freight trains:

As the Gotthard line is one of only two north-south railway lines through the Swiss Alps, it is a major freight corridor, especially for freight between Germany and the Netherlands in the north and Italy in the south. A lot of the freight is intermodal containers and swap bodies. Major players are companies like HUPAC and Bertschi.

Traction for freight trains is quite uniform, especially compared with countries like Germany. On the Gotthard line between Erstfeld on the north ramp and Chiasso and Luino on the south ramp, perhaps 80% of all freight are hauled by a SBB Re 10/10 - that is a Re 4/4 II + a Re 6/6. The rest is hauled by other SBB traction, traction from BLS and DB and traction from companies like TXL.

Most freight trains on the Gotthard line enter or leave Switzerland through the Basel area. From Basel the line used for freight trains is via Rotkreuz and Arth-Goldau to Erstfeld. Most freights stop in Erstfeld for exchanging crew and sometimes also traction.

Specific locations:

Selected photos from the Gotthard Line:

Crossrail E 186 908 + E 186 906

Crossrail E 186 908 + E 186 906 with DGS 40125 (Zeebrugge Ramskapelle - Milano Smistamento) in Wattinger Kurve in Wassen (362 kb, opens in a new browser).

Updated December 25, 2014 / copyright Finn Møller
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