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Improvements on the rail route from Zürich to München (December 2020)

By Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries |

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Aerial view of Lindau Island in Lake Constance - where the town's station (Hauptbahnhof) and railway lines take up much space. A new mainland station. more convenient for most Lindau residents, will open in December 2020 (photo © Potteret / dreamstime.com).

Aerial view of Lindau Island in Lake Constance - where the town's station (Hauptbahnhof) and railway lines take up much space. A new mainland station. more convenient for most Lindau residents, will open in December 2020 (photo © Potteret / dreamstime.com).

New train timetables come into effect in Switzerland, as indeed more widely across Europe, on 13 December 2020. The big news story around the revised Swiss schedules will of course be the opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel. That new tunnel, in Switzerland’s southernmost canton of Ticino, will bring faster running times on the important north-south Gotthard axis.

But away in the north-east of the country is another significant development that debuts on 13 December. The direct Eurocity link from Zürich to Bavaria has long been the poor relation in Switzerland’s generally excellent range of direct rail services to Germany. ICEs speed north down the Rhine Valley from Basel to serve a score of major German cities. But the Eurocity services from Zürich to München have been infrequent and slow. The route gets a welcome revamp in December, with a doubling in daily frequency.

A scenic route through three countries

The route runs north-east from Zürich via St Gallen to reach the Austrian border beyond St Margrethen. The train then skirts the eastern edge of Lake Constance to enter Germany just short of Lindau. In Lindau Hauptbahnhof the trains reverse, and then follow a scenic route through the rural Allgäu region of southern Bavaria to München.

The travel time from Zürich to München in the current timetables is 4hrs 44mins. In the present timetable, there are three Eurocity trains in each direction on the route – using Swiss carriages and conveying a very comfortable first-class panorama car. It’s all very classy but it isn’t fast.

Astoro tilting trains

But from mid-December this year, the number of trains on the route will rise from three to six in each direction, and the travel time will be trimmed to around four hours. The old-style loco and carriages will go, replaced by chic Astoro tilting trains belonging to the Swiss Federal Railways.

These Astoros are ETR610 Pendolino-style trains, the first of which were originally commissioned by Cisalpino. They have given good service on the Gotthard route to Italy – where they are now being replaced by the new Giruno trains, the first of which have entered service this summer.

A new station for Lindau

Trains will take the same route from Zürich to München as now, bar for a short variation around Lindau. A new station called Lindau-Reutin opens in December, and this will become the principal station for the lakeshore town. For most residents it’s better placed than the old Hauptbahnhof on Lindau Island.

So from December the reversal at Lindau Hauptbahnhof will become a thing of the past. That old station (pictured above) will no longer be served by Eurocity trains from Switzerland, but it’s not closing. Many regional services will still terminate there. The island at Lindau, linked to the shore by a causeway, has long been a bit too dominated by the railway, so we do hope that some land will be freed up for non-railway use. 

Recalling the Trans-Europe Express

This improved service from Switzerland via Austria to Bavaria is of course very welcome. But it is worth remembering that half a century ago the TEE Bavaria left Zürich at breakfast time each morning and reached München in just 4hrs 8mins. It ran only once per day in each direction, and in those days was reserved for first-class passengers. The downgrading of the route and the service over recent decades is now happily being reversed.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
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About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 16th edition of that book was published in October 2019. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.

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