Swiss railways : timetables and information
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The national three-volume timetable (Kursbuch or Fahrplan, indicateur or horaire, orario), covering all rail, bus, boat and cable-car services, costs Fr.16; most main stations keep a public copy to consult. There’s also an abridged single-volume version called Reka for Fr.12. Both are available to buy at just about all stations, where you’ll also find piles of leaflets and free pocket timetables covering the local region. Check times carefully if you’re travelling in the last week of May, when the timetable is revamped each year. The national train enquiry number is 0900/300 300, or you can ask ticket-office staff how to get from any station to any other and they’ll print out an itinerary for you showing exact connection times. At larger city stations (Zürich, Geneva and others) you’ll find a stand-up Internet terminal where you can surf the SBB Web site, book tickets, and get fare quotes and timetable information for free.

On all train and bus station notice boards, timetables are colour coded: the yellow timetable always shows departures (Abfahrt, départ, partenza), while the white one always indicates arrivals (Ankunft, arrivée, arrivo). Trains are identified by an alphabet soup of initials denoting where, when and how fast they go. CIS are tilting express “Pendolino” trains run by Cisalpino between Switzerland and Italy; ICE are Inter-City Express services between Switzerland and Germany; TGV are high-speed trains between Switzerland and France. Sleeper services are either CNL (CityNightLine) or EN (EuroNight). Day trains between major European cities – that may stop at only two or three places in Switzerland – are denoted EC (EuroCity). If you’re holding an ordinary ticket or train pass, all of these are free of any surcharges within Swiss borders; you must pay supplements only if you cross an international frontier, or if the train is marked in the timetable with an R in a square box. In these cases, seat reservations cost Fr.4 per person.

Within Switzerland, IC InterCity expresses cross the country stopping at larger cities only. IR InterRegio trains ply between regions, stopping at a few more places in between; RX RegioExpress services are one step slower. Something described as a Schnellzug, train direct or treno diretto goes from village to village; while a Regionalzug, train régional or treno regionale stops at every tiny halt on the way.

Platforms are marked out in sectors, from A to D. For mainline services, the PA announcement (and a list next to the timetable boards) tells you which sectors the first- and second-class carriages will arrive at, saving you running up and down the train. Beware of truncated one- or two-carriage local trains departing from Platform 3 Sector A while you’re standing at Platform 3 Sector D tapping your watch. Sometimes two short trains will depart in opposite directions from different sectors of the same platform.

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