Switzerland, the country of chocolate, iconic peaks, fondue and lust worthy timepieces, is also renowned for having the world’s most efficient transportation system. Their “Swiss Travel System” is a near-miraculous public transportation juggernaut 16,000 miles long, with 28,863 stops, and also includes boats and buses that haul more than 1.8 million passengers annually. It’s only fitting that Switzerland is home to Europe’s oldest mountain railway (Vitznau to Rigi-Bahn, 1871), has the highest railway station (Jungfraujoch) in Europe at 11.332 feet, and the world’s steepest cog way railway that chugs up the side of the mountain at a 48 percent gradient (Pilatusbahn Alpnachstad-Pilatus).
The Swiss Travel System — the country’s superbly integrated trains, post buses, trams, ships and cable cars — is one of the easiest public transport systems to use. Station signage and information systems are models of clarity, and announcements on trains and at stations are in English. The range of Swiss travel passes minimises the need to buy tickets — the Swiss Pass, for example, allows unlimited use of most public transport as well as free admission to 450 museums. Apart from tourist trains such as the Glacier or Bernina expresses, there is no need to book seats on Swiss trains.
The Glacier Express: It’s advertised as the slowest express train in the world, requiring more than 7 1/2 hours to pass through southeastern Switzerland. Despite that, its 274km (170 miles) of track are an awesome triumph of engineering (of which Switzerland is justifiably proud). Beginning every day in Zermatt, in southwest Switzerland, and ending in St. Moritz, in Switzerland’s east, it crosses more than 291 bridges and goes through 91 tunnels, traversing some of the country’s most inaccessible mountains with an ease that medieval pilgrims would have considered an act of God. You can also take the train from St. Moritz to Zermatt. Naturally, the scenery is breathtaking. The windows are large enough to allow clear views, and a dining car serves lunch with civilized efficiency.
The timetable system is so structured that at least every hour there is a train departing from each destination to another to guarantee the service of train, bus, and boat connection thought Switzerland. The connection with bus and boats are studied to depart/arrive always on the same time and exactly to be used from people arriving from another destination by train. The same is valid also vice versa and for all trains connections in Switzerland. While it’s unlikely that a hurricane the strength of Frankenstorm will hit Switzerland, a monster snowstorm this winter is almost a guarantee. But the Swiss have it covered: All exchanges are heated to prevent them from freezing and all railways have mechanical means for the removal of snow. The one downside to this technological brilliance: The hallowed American “Snow Day” excuse won’t fly here.