SBB and BLS: long-distance services cooperation, new trains ordered

SBB and BLS: long-distance services cooperation, new trains ordered

Seven new Stadler FLIRT trains will be purchased by BLS for this purpose.

Swiss railway companies BLS and SBB will expand their collaboration in long-distance rail services. Starting December 2025, BLS will operate the new long-distance route, IR56, connecting Biel/Bienne, Delémont, and Basel. This development will offer passengers on this route a new half-hourly service for long-distance travel.

From December 2025, travellers in Northwestern Switzerland will benefit from better services. Introducing a double track between Grellingen and Duggingen enables a new half-hourly frequency for the Biel/Bienne–Delémont–Basel SBB long-distance route. BLS has agreed to operate the additional long-distance connection, IR56. The second long-distance service on this route, IC51, will continue to be operated by SBB and will be extended to Lausanne from its current terminus at Biel/Bienne starting December 2025.

BLS plans to deploy seven newly ordered Stadler FLIRT trains on the planned services, branded as “MIKA”. These trains have 242 seats, a 2+1 seating arrangement in first class, multifunction zones for bicycles and luggage, and a bistro zone, catering to customer needs and expected passenger numbers. BLS also intends to promote tourist destinations along the new long-distance line, similar to its current marketing efforts in various regions of its network.

The long-distance cooperation between SBB and BLS began in 2019. BLS has operated the Bern‒Olten, Bern‒Biel/Bienne, and Bern‒Neuchâtel‒La Chaux-de-Fonds lines since 2019 and 2020. The railway companies SBB, BLS, and SOB have agreed to continue this successful Swiss cooperative model in long-distance travel for the next concession period starting December 2029.

How does it work?

SBB holds the long-distance concession but assigns the operation of certain long-distance lines to BLS and SOB. The companies, along with the Federal Office of Transport (BAV), finalized a basis agreement at the end of 2022 to formalize this arrangement.

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