Zürich S-Bahn

Zürich S-Bahn

ZVV logo on the door of an SBB-CFF-FFS RABe 514.

ZVV logo on the door of
an SBB-CFF-FFS RABe 514.
Locale Zürich, Switzerland
Transit type S-Bahn
Number of lines 26[1]
Number of stations 171[2]
Daily ridership 409331 (2008)[3]
Began operation 1990
Operator(s) Swiss Federal Railways
System length 380 km (240 mi)[2]
Track gauge Various
Siemens RABe 514 "DTZ" on the S8 service, which extends into Thurgau
1960s rolling stock (RBe 540 multiple units and rebuilt EW I coaches) is still used for relief trains
The "DPZ" trains form the largest part of the fleet (Re 450 locomotive, B and AB coaches, Bt control car)
SOB FLIRT on the S40 service
THURBO operated Stadler GTW on the S33 service
RABDe 510 "Mirage" trainsets, used until 2008, now scrapped

The Zürich S-Bahn (German: S-Bahn Zürich) system is a network of rail lines that has been incrementally expanded to cover the ZVV area, which comprises the entire canton of Zürich and portions of neighboring cantons (Aargau, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Thurgau and St. Gallen), with a few lines extending into Germany. The network is one of many commuter rail operations in German speaking countries to be described as an S-Bahn.

The entire ZVV S-Bahn network went into operation in May 1990, although many of the lines were already in operation.

Unusual among rapid transit services, the Zürich S-Bahn provides first class commuter travel; about one-fifth of seats on each train are first class.[4]


Gold Coast Express

The first step in developing Zürich's rail system which eventually led to the establishment of the S-Bahn was the establishment of the so-called Gold Coast Express (German: Goldküstenexpress) on 26 May 1968 between Zürich Stadelhofen and Rapperswil via Meilen along the wealthy north shore of Lake Zürich, popularly known as the Gold Coast. This development came about because, after World War II, there was a rapid expansion of commuting to Zürich from the former wine-growing villages along the railway line, which originally opened in 1894. As a result, commuters complained that the trains were overcrowded, slow and often delayed.[5]

The canton of Zürich began to develop a project to improve the railway in the 1950s. Because it was not used by either long-distance passenger or freight trains, improvements in local services were possible. Double track sections were built between Kuesnacht and Herrliberg and between Stäfa and Uerikon, along with new stations. The main problem was finance. Development of the line would only serve local interests and would not lead to increased revenue for Swiss Federal Railways (SFR). At the time the canton and cities affected could not fund improvements to an SFR line, so the law was changed to allow local contributions.[5]

The new Gold Coast Express service operated a regular schedule every half-hour, with the total journey time for the distance of 36 kilometres (22 miles) reduced from the previous 60 to 40 minutes. The most striking feature of the improved railway was the three-car claret-coloured RABDe 12/12 electric multiple units. These had good acceleration and braking performance and immediately became known as "Mirages", after the jet fighters. The modern features of the Mirages included automatically closing doors, which allowed short stops at stations and a reduction in travel time.[5]

U-Bahn rejection

Map of the 1970s proposal for a combine U-Bahn and S-Bahn

On 30 May 1959 some voters put two proposals to the Zürich City Council. The first would have allocated CHF 200,000 for a study on the construction of a two-line U-bahn (underground railway) with lines from Enge to Kloten and from Altstetten to Tiefenbrunnen; but it was opposed by the majority of the City Council and failed. The second motion proposed the establishment of a company to build and operate a Zürich U-Bahn. The city had already considered such a proposal and opposed it, on the basis that Zürich was not big enough for an underground railway, and it would cost too much.[6] In a referendum on 14 February 1960, 69.8% of voters voted "no" to the proposal.[7]

Following further work and the enactment of a new transport act, the regional public transport authorities presented a new proposal for a combined regional U-Bahn and S-Bahn system (that is, a suburban network based on the existing rail system) . From Zürich Airport, an U-Bahn line would run via Glattbrugg, Oerlikon, Hirschenwiesen, Central, Zürich Main Station, Stauffacher and Altstetten to Dietikon. Much of the line would have run above ground. The second part of the proposal was the "Zürichberg network", a line from Zürich main station via a new tunnel under the Zürichberg to Dietlikon. The proposed construction of an underground station in Museumstrasse on the north side of the main station was intended to ease the pressure on the main station.[8] On 20 May 1973 this proposal was rejected in a referendum, with the "no" vote as high as in the previous referendum.[9] At the referendum, little opposition had been expressed against the proposed S-Bahn lines.[10]

Coordination and construction of the S-Bahn

The original eastern option, which is now the current route of the S-Bahn under the Zürichberg

Rail is a major element in Zürich's public transport system, and its upgrade required close collaboration between the Canton of Zürich and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the owner of most of the railways. The SBB had insufficient resources for a substantial upgrade of commuter services. On the other hand, the canton of Zürich could not fund an alternative transport network.[11]

The first step towards cooperation came in 1978 with the establishment of a Transport Fund providing CHF 40 million annually for urban transport. The routes of today's S-Bahn were established in a debate in the cantonal Council on 19 June 1978. Alternative "eastern" and "western" options were discussed. Under the western option the northern end of the central tunnel from the main station would have connected with Oerlikon, while in the eastern option it would have tunneled under the Zürichberg and ended near Dietlikon. The cantonal Council chose the eastern option by 85 votes to 36.[10]

At a referendum on 29 November 1981, Zürich's voters approved by a two-thirds majority a loan of CHF 520 million for the construction of the core of the S-Bahn. The new route runs from the main station through the Hirschengraben tunnel to Stadelhofen, where the line branches off to Tiefenbrunnen, and continues through the Zürichberg Tunnel to Stettbach (new underground station) with a connection to the existing rail lines at Dietlikon and Dübendorf. A new underground station with four tracks was built under the existing central station (also known as the Museumstrasse station). The Stadelhofen station was transformed into an architecture award-winning station. Approach lines were also built to allow trains to run towards Altstetten. Simultaneously with the construction of the S-Bahn core line the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn was extended from its former terminal station at Selnau to the main station.

Opening and expansion

On 27 May 1990, the S-Bahn was brought into operation and the Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (Zürich Transport Network) began operations. For the first time, one could travel on trains, buses and trams with just one ticket. Despite "teething problems", passenger numbers increased rapidly. Since the opening of the S-Bahn, travel volumes have increased by about 60%. In several stages, S-Bahn services were expanded to a 380 kilometres (236 miles) rail network, and peak hour express trains were added.

The first stage of the expansion addressed the chronic overcrowding of trains on the S12 route between Dietikon and Zürich, requiring improvements in the Limmat valley. The widening of the railway to four tracks between Dietikon and Killwangen allowed the separation of the S-Bahn from the long-distance and freight services. The new S3 service introduced as a result complemented the S12 service, to provide a train every 15 minutes on the route. At the same time the sections of the S9 route via Knonau were upgraded to allow services to be increased to each half hour. Services on the north side of Lake Zürich were increased with trains provided every 15 minutes by S6, S7 and S16 services. A new station was opened at Glanzberg between Dietikon and Schlieren.

Under the second stage of expansion in December 2002, night trains were added to the S-Bahn. Since 2007, night trains provide a continuous 24-hour service from Friday morning until Sunday evening on some lines.

The third stage expansion was completed in 2007. On 12 December 2004 (coinciding with the completion of the first stage of Rail 2000), the S3 service was extended from Dietikon through the Heitersberg Tunnel to Aarau with a new station at Mellingen. On 10 December 2006, S15 was opened between Rapperswil and Birmensdorf following line improvements. It was extended from Birmensdorf to Affoltern am Albis on 9 December 2007. South of Zürich sections of the Sihltalbahn were doubled. On the rural feeder lines around Winterthur (S33 to Schaffhausen, S35 to Wil and S41 to Bülach) services were increased to run every half hour. The S8 was extended from Winterthur to Weinfelden, providing with the existing S30 services two trains an hour on the line. In addition, the S16 was extended every hour to Schaffhausen, stopping after Winterthur only at Andelfingen and Neuhausen am Rheinfall. Moreover, on the line from Winterthur to Wil a new station opened at Winterthur Hegi.

Opening of the Weinberg Tunnel

Second through line via the Weinberg Tunnel

Following a successful referendum a project was established to create a third set of underground platforms under Zürich Hauptbahnhof, together with a new elevated route through the western approaches to the Hauptbahnhof, a new tunnel running eastwards from Hauptbahnhof to Zürich Oerlikon, and the addition of two extra platforms at Oerlikon. The result would be the creation of a new Altstetten–Zürich–Oerlikon cross-city line, also known as the Durchmesserlinie Zürich, for the use of both long-distance and S-Bahn trains.

Breakthrough of the new Weinberg Tunnel was achieved in November 2010, and it was opened to traffic on the 14 June 2014. On the same date, the new platforms, also known as the Löwenstrasse station, were opened. Whilst the other works are still outstanding and expected to be completed in 2015, the partial completion resulted in significant changes to the Zürich S-Bahn.[12][13][14]

These changes included the diversion of lines S2, S8 and S14 through the Weinberg Tunnel. These lines previously ran via Zürich Wipkingen station, and in order to prevent that station losing service, S24 was extended from Zürich Hauptbahnhof station via Wipkingen to Zürich Oerlikon station. At the same time, the former Glarner Sprinter, a two-hourly train service from Zürich Hauptbahnhof to Linthal, was replaced with a new hourly S-Bahn service, the S25. These major changes resulted in a number of other changes, with service to various stations being provided by different lines.[14]


Current services

The following services are operated. Unless noted otherwise, all services operate every 30 minutes throughout the day. There may be additional trains during peak periods, and a reduced frequency in the evenings and/or at weekends.[15]

# Route Notes Operator
S 2 Zürich FlughafenZürich HBPfäffikon SZZiegelbrücke Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Ziegelbrücke. SBB
S 3 ( AarauLenzburg – ) DietikonZürich HBEffretikonWetzikon Alternate trains operate between Aarau and Dietikon. SBB
S 4 Zürich HBAdliswilLangnau-Gattikon ( – Sihlwald ) Operates every 20 minutes between Zürich HB and Langnau-Gattikon; one train per hour continues to Sihlwald. SZU
S 5 ZugAffoltern am AlbisZürich HBUsterWetzikonRapperswilPfäffikon SZ Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Wetzikon. SBB
S 6 Baden AGRegensdorf-WattZürich HBUetikon SBB
S 7 Winterthur HBKlotenZürich HBMeilenRapperswil Non-stop between Zürich Stadelhofen and Meilen. SBB
S 8 WeinfeldenFrauenfeldWinterthur HBWallisellenZürich HBPfäffikon SZ SBB
S 9 ( Schaffhausen –) RafzZürich HBUster Alternate trains operate between Schaffhausen and Rafz. SBB
S 10 Zürich HBZürich TriemliUetliberg On weekdays, a frequent shuttle operates between Zürich HB and Triemli with a half-hourly train continuing to Uetliberg; at weekends trains run throughout every 20 minutes. SZU
S 11 Zürich HardbrückeZürich HBWinterthur HBSchaffhausen / Romanshorn / Wil SG Operates during peak hours only; stops at selected stations only. SBB
S 12 BruggZürich HBWinterthur HBSeuzach / Winterthur-Seen Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Winterthur; trains operate alternately to Seuzach and Winterthur Seen. SBB
S 13 WädenswilSamstagernEinsiedeln SOB
S 14 Affoltern am AlbisZürich HBOerlikonUsterWetzikonHinwil SBB
S 15 NiederweningenZürich HBUsterWetzikonRapperswil Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Wetzikon SBB
S 16 Zürich FlughafenZürich HBHerrliberg-Feldmeilen (– Meilen) Operates to Meilen in the evenings only SBB
S 17 DietikonBremgartenBremgarten WestWohlen Trains run every half-hour between Dietikon and Wohlen; on weekdays additional trains from Dietikon to Bremgarten West give a train every 15 minutes on that section. BDWM
S 18 Zürich StadelhofenZürich RehalpForchEsslingen A tram-train service that operates over the Zürich tram network as far as Rehalp, stopping at selected tram stops. Off-peak trains then run every 15 minutes to Forch, with alternate trains continuing to Esslingen. At peak periods four trains per hour run to Esslingen not stopping between Rehalp and Forch, whilst another four provide a stopping service to Forch. FB
S 19 ( KoblenzBaden – ) DietikonZürich HBOerlikonEffretikon ( – Pfäffikon ZH ) Operates Koblenz to Dietikon and Effretikon to Pfäffikon ZH in peak periods only SBB
S 24 ( ThayngenSchaffhausen – ) Winterthur HBZürich AirportZürich HBThalwilZug Alternate trains operate between Thayngen and Winterthur. SBB
S 25 Zürich HBPfäffikon SZZiegelbrückeGlarusLinthal Hourly service. Serves only selected stops between Zürich HB and Ziegelbrücke SBB
S 26 Winterthur HBBauma (– Rüti ZH) Alternate trains continue to Rüti. Commonly called the Tösstalbahn. Thurbo
S 29 Winterthur HBStein am Rhein Hourly service Thurbo
S 30 Winterthur HBFrauenfeldWeinfelden (– RomanshornRorschach) Hourly service Thurbo
S 33 Winterthur HBAndelfingenSchaffhausen Thurbo
S 35 Winterthur HBWil SG Thurbo
S 40 RapperswilPfäffikon SZSamstagernEinsiedeln SOB
S 41 Winterthur HBBülach (– Bad ZurzachWaldshut ) Alternate trains continue to Bad Zurzach and Waldshut. Thurbo

Previous services

International services

Two Zürich S-Bahn services cross the international border into Germany. Service S9 crosses German territory between Rafz and Schaffhausen (both in Switzerland), calling at the German stations of Lottstetten and Jestetten. Service S41 crosses the border at the end of its journey, in order to terminate at Waldshut station in Germany.

Future developments

Further improvements are envisaged, including two additional tracks at Oerlikon railway station, a passing loop in Pfäffikon and adjustments at various stations. Further improvements in the corridor between the airport and Winterthur are being developed as part of the second stage of Rail 2000 for long-distance trains, which would require further adjustments for the S-Bahn.

In the longer term, a vision for 2030 includes the development of two types of S-Bahn services and trains. Inner services will operate every 15 minutes, and will be provided by single-deck trains, so that passengers can embark and disembark quickly. Outer express services will operate every half-hour, stopping at all stations in the outer area but only at principal stations in the inner area, and will be formed of double-deck stock in order to provide more seating for longer journeys.[16]

In September 2014 a study was published for the construction of a new rail tunnel and underground station serving the ETH Hönggerberg "Science City". The new tunnel would run directly between Hardbrücke and Regensdorf stations, as opposed to the indirect route via the existing Käferberg Tunnel and Oerlikon station that is currently used by service S6.[17]



  1. ZVV Geschäftsbericht 2006
  2. 1 2 S-Bahn Zürich. Daten und Fakten. SBB Division Personenverkehr, 2003 (Broschüre)
  3. http://www.zvv.ch/opencms/export/sites/default/common-images/content-image-gallery/unternehmen-pdfs/GB_2012.pdf
  4. seating ratio calculated from specifications for DTZ RABe 514, retrieved 2011-02-13
  5. 1 2 3 "Die Geburtsstunde der Zürcher S-Bahn (The birth of the Zürich S-Bahn)" (in German). NZZ Online. 26 May 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  6. Künzi (1998) p. 25 ff
  7. "69.8% of voters vote no" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 15 February 1960. p. 5.
  8. Künzi (1998) p. 44 ff
  9. "69.8% of voters vote no" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 21 May 1973. p. 25.
  10. 1 2 Hobmeier (1990) p. 12
  11. Fechtig and Glättli (1990), p. 15
  12. "Railway Gazette: Weinberg tunnel holed through". Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  13. "Railway Gazette: Cross-city tunnel opening increases capacity in Zürich". Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  14. 1 2 Haydock, David (August 2014). "Zürich's New S-Bahn Tunnel". Today's Railways Europe (224). Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. pp. 28–32.
  15. "S-Bahn trains, buses and boats" (PDF). ZVV. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  16. Rohrer, Jürg (6 August 2014). "Das Zürcher Tramnetz in 20 Jahren" [The Zürich tram network in 20 years]. Tages Anzeiger (in German). Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  17. "Tunnelbahnhof für «Science City" (PDF) (in German). ADF Innovation Consulting. 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2015.

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