On your journey from the UK to Switzerland, you can choose from a number of different rail options, depending on your preferred route and class. Each train offers high quality comfort and a new rail experience that will enrich you holiday. Most of our rail touring holidays include travel on the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, where you change trains for the TGV to Zurich via Basel or to Geneva. Routes through Germany or Italy are also possible.EurostarThe Eurostar is a direct service that links the UK and continental Europe. The main UK station is London St Pancras, although there are also 2 Kent stations with large parking facilities, at Ebbsfleet and Ashford. Trains run to Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Midi, with some trains calling at Lille Europe and Calais Frethun. One train per day serves Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallée (not recommended) and there are weekly services to the Alps in the winter and to Provence in summer.The trains themselves have 18 coaches, of which 10 are standard class, 2 are cafeterias and the remaining 6 are Standard Premier (First Class) and Business Premier. Standard Premier customers are served a light cold meal and a basic at-seat service, and enjoy a more spacious and quieter travelling environment than Standard Class. Business Premier is the top service, offering a hot meal and unlimited beverages at your seat. Power sockets are available in all Standard Premier/Business Premier coaches as well as coaches 5 and 14 of Standard Class.Most holidaying clients are happy with Standard Premier, as the supplements for Business Premier are somewhat higher. All stations have a waiting area, with basic shops, boutiques, and catering.Check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure and customs formalities are completed before boarding, although clients may experience additional checks at UK stations on their return journey. There is no baggage limit in any class of travel, and liquids etc can be taken on board the train.A private lounge is available for holders of full-price Business Premier First Class tickets in London St Pancras, Paris Nord, and Brussels Midi. TGV – Train à Grand VitesseThese are high-speed domestic French trains that serve most of the country and make some incursions into neighbouring countries such as Spain and Switzerland. Some trains are double-decker, thus increasing capacity. First Class tickets include a larger, more spacious seating environment with increased legroom. There are no lounge facilities for First Class ticket-holders and there are no meals included.There are usually 2 cafeterias offering basic food and drinks, although many consider this overpriced and of poor quality. We recommend eating before you travel or stocking up with a picnic beforehand (there are no restrictions on this!). Train announcements are usually only in French, and English is spoken by some staff.German ICE – Inter City ExpressThese are high-quality services that run throughout Germany and also into neighbouring Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark and Holland. They have spacious seating, even in Standard Class, and First Class customers benefit from an at-seat service from the restaurant car. Punctuality is not always in line with stereotypical German efficiency, so don’t plan for any tight connections in Germany!The restaurant car produces food of a good standard and menus are often inspired by a German celebrity chef of the month. There is plentiful seating in the restaurant car, and a trip here breaks a long journey perfectly!Some trains have wifi connections, and some even have meeting areas with a table for 4 in a separate compartment is bookable for added privacy. Most trains have up-to-the-minute technology and display information clearly in several languages on modern screens. Train announcements are in German and English, and all staff are required to have a good command of English.First Class passengers are invited to use the DB Lounge, which are located in all major German stations, offering drinks, snacks and newspapers. EuroCityEuroCity trains run across Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the route from Switzerland into Italy. Examples of some EuroCity routes include Zurich-Milan, Lausanne-Venice, Berlin-Warsaw, Berlin-Prague, Prague-Vienna and Munich-Zagreb.They are usually collaborations between the national train operators of the countries through which each train is travelling. Most EuroCity trains have a restaurant car, although this sometimes only operates whilst the train is running through certain countries (e.g. on the Munich-Ljubljana EuroCity, the restaurant car is only operational through the Austrian part of the journey). Seating can either be in an open-coach or in 6-seater compartments. Requests can be made for your preferred seating arrangements.First Class entitles you to more space, more storage and a quieter travelling environment. It also entitles you to use the First Class lounge at your origin station, if there is one.Click the above tabs to explore your options once you reach Switzerland.
The network of railway lines in Switzerland covers a distance of 5000km, and so offers a convenient, scenic, and stress-free way of seeing the country. Reliable, hourly trains connect all major stations, with high speeds and little disruption, between the times of 6am and 12am. Carriages have smoking and non-smoking sections, and depending on the length of the rail route, often have a dining carriage. Tips:• Journeys of over 80km on one ticket can be split across two consecutive days, and tickets for journeys of over 160km are valid for a month• Buying two single tickets is often cheaper than a return ticket, particularly for short journeys• The ‘special’ services, including the iconic rail journeys, offer excellent value for money compared to standard rail services• Swiss Flex Passes grant travel on SBB trains, boats, Alpine postbuses, trams and buses in select destinations, and a 25% discount on funicular and mountain railways. Flex Passes can be bought for durations of three, four, eight, and 15 days, or one month. We recommend purchasing this ticket through Expressions Holidays (it is included in the sample price of most of our touring holidays), as it has a limited availability in SwitzerlandTypes of trainPanoramic TrainsThe panoramic carriages offered by many of the scenic iconic rail journeys in Switzerland are excellent ways of viewing the sweeping Alpine landscapes at ease. Wide windows curve up around the walls and onto the carriage roof, thus letting in plenty of light and allowing you to take in whole panoramas at a time. The Glacier Express and the Bernina Express are prime examples of this kind of train, where the journey itself is an unforgettable experience and you spend eight hours at a time watching the scenery go by and enjoying dinner on the train. Rack RailwaysRack railways run on toothed tracks with cogwheels under the train body that serve to increase traction, enabling the train to tackle gradients of up to around 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail. The most memorable examples of this are the Rochers-de-Naye train from Montreux, the Train des Etoiles from Vevey, the historic Schynige Platte from Wilderswil near the Jungfrau, the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, the Pilatus Rack Railway (the world’s steepest), and the Rigi Railway.Narrow Gauge The term ‘Narrow Gauge Railway’ encompasses all trains with a track gauge narrower than the 1,435mm of standard gauge railways. These trains tend to be historic steam trains, occupying slow, scenic routes. The Albula Railway, which makes up part of the Bernina Express on the Rhaetian Railway, is perhaps one of the most breath-taking of this rail variety. The narrower gauge enables the train to navigate sharper turns, particularly the Landwasser Viaduct, which has a radius of 100m and channels the track straight into the rock face at the end. The Brusio viaduct, though not at such a high altitude, negotiates a dramatic change in altitude via a 360 degree spiral. Funicular RailwaysFunicular railways are used almost exclusively for traversing the steep mountainsides of the Swiss Alps up to vantage points, hiking trails, and ski slopes in the winter. They combine the technology of an elevator and a traditional railway, and are used to tackle routes that are too steep for regular trains, which proves very useful with a landscape as mountainous and varied as Switzerland’s. They work using the counterbalance weights of two carriages. The weight of the empty, descending carriage and a motorised cable combine to pull the full passenger carriage up the hill, and vice versa. The best examples of these in Switzerland are from Interlaken to Harder Kulm, Mulenen to Niesen, the Reichenbach Funicular, and the Gelmer Funicular, which is the steepest and therefore most thrilling. Rail StationsSmall and large stations in Switzerland are usually able to help you put together and print out an itinerary for your rail journey, and, more often than not, this is in English. At Zurich, passengers with international First Class tickets are entitled to use the SBB Lounge while they wait for their trains. Here, you can enjoy complimentary wifi, hot drinks, soft drinks, and snacks from the comfort of the leather armchairs. Holders of First Class Swiss domestic tickets cannot use this lounge. At Geneva, the SBB Lounge functions on a similar basis, though also does not permit holders of First Class railpasses. Luggage storage and transferTrain stations in Switzerland offer luggage storage to all passengers, either in the form of 24-hour lockers, which vary in price, or a dedicated counter, which usually proves to be more expensive. You can also choose to send your luggage ahead on an earlier train, provided it is dropped off before 9am, if you wish to explore your current location first, ready to be picked up later that day. This helps ensure that you are able to make the most of your days unhindered. Luggage can also be sent separately on international trains if dropped off before 9am and collected by 6pm on the same day. This service is charged at around CHF22. We can also arrange for your luggage to be waiting for you at your hotel upon arrival.
Within Switzerland, aside from the train types described on the previous tab, most travel will be on either InterCity of InterRegional trains. While most trains follow the traditional style of train, you might also travel on the double-decker InterCity trains, which gives you a further opportunity to witness the phenomenal views. These trains usually run between Zurich and Geneva, Zurich and Brig, Zurich and Lucerne, and Basel and Chur. Tilting InterCity trains enable fast travel on curving routes, particularly between Geneva and Basel, Geneva and Zurich, Lausanne and Basel, Lausanne and Zurich, Basel and Chiasso, and Zurich and Chiasso. Trains run by private operators have a great deal more variation, be it in age or carriage design. Trains run by the SBB within Switzerland will have Restaurants and Bistros run by the Swiss National Culinary Team.Special service trains, including the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express, and the GoldenPass Line will offer services such as wifi and will often have a dining carriage or an option to dine in your seat. First Class BenefitsOn SBB trains, First Class tickets grant you extra space and more comfortable seats. The First Class carriages are marked on the outside by a horizontal yellow stripe. As First Class is rarely full, we would recommend it to those looking to secure a peaceful journey, as Second Class is often busy. Private railway lines and more rural trains may not have a First Class section.
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