The Zurich Transport Network – Switzerland's first transport network – has been transporting passengers since 1990.

It is now more than 30 years since voters in Zurich established the foundations of today's S-Bahn: The notion of a combined U-Bahn and S-Bahn system had been rejected in 1973, but in 1981 a dedicated S-Bahn network received the green light. The legal basis for the Zurich Transport Network was established in 1988, again with the clear approval of the electorate.

1990: Federal councillor Ogi at the opening celebrations for the Zurich S-Bahn
1990: Federal councillor Ogi at the opening celebrations for the Zurich S-Bahn

Launch in 1990

After a construction period of nine years, the first Zurich S-Bahn train rolled into Stadelhofen station on 27th May 1990. For the Canton of Zurich, which had invested close on 700 million francs, this was a milestone in the development of public transport. At the heart of the S-Bahn system was the low-level station of Museumstrasse, the Hirschengraben tunnel, the Zürichberg tunnel and the stations of Stadelhofen and Stettbach. Meanwhile the Sihltal-Zurich-Uetlibergbahn network was extended as far as the main station.

Switzerland's first transport network

The Zurich Transport Network as a whole commenced activity in 1990. The idea behind the transport network may have been a simple one, but it was unique to Switzerland at the time: The various transport businesses would henceforth operate as components of a greater whole rather than individual companies with their own fares and clearly defined areas. The ZVV defines strategic objectives and approaches while taking responsibility for finance and strategic marketing; the transport companies retain responsibility for rendering the actual transport services. Higher levels of customer satisfaction more than make up for any loss of business autonomy.

Constant expansion of rails

Success was not long in coming, and soon ZVV services reached its capacity limits on certain lines.Passenger numbers on the S-Bahn network have more than tripled since its introduction in May 1990.

Löwenstrasse: Zurich's second through station opened in 2014. (Photo: © SBB/Dorothea Müller)
Löwenstrasse: Zurich's second through station opened in 2014. (Photo: © SBB/Dorothea Müller)

The S-Bahn network has already undergone four considerable expansions. Between 2014 and 2019, the 4th partial expansions were implemented with further infrastructure extensions of the Zurich S-Bahn. These investments were necessary in order to be able to cope with the predicted increase in public transport in and around the Canton of Zurich in the foreseeable future. The foundation was laid in 2014 with the opening of the second underground through-station, Löwenstrasse, and the complete commissioning of the cross-city link at the end of 2015. The capacity of Zurich Main Station as the centre of the Zurich S-Bahn network has thus been significantly increased.

Extensions also in light rail and bus services

The expansions in the Zurich S-Bahn network can only be fully effective when the connections to the urban and regional network work properly. For this reason, ongoing infrastructure investments are also made in these areas and the tram and bus services are adapted accordingly. In this way, more and more travel chains can be offered in a tighter rhythm. Since the end of 2010, the Glattal line has connected the Zurich North area with the mid-Glattal and the airport. In the city of Zurich, the Hardbrücke S-Bahn station has optimally been connected to the city's tram network with a new line across the bridge at the end of 2017. Since then, Zurich West has been directly connected to the city centre and, together with the tram extension to Altstetten in 2011, is even better integrated into the tram network. In the Limmattal, the Limmattal line helps to cope with the growth in population and employment. It connects Zurich Altstetten with Killwangen-Spreitenbach and serves the S-Bahn stations along the line. The first stage to Schlieren was put into operation in September 2019. Full commissioning will follow in 2022.

Since 2002, the ZVV nighttime network has added around the clock public transport connections on Friday and Saturday nights. Thanks to the positive development, the night network has quickly become a success. In addition, the accessibility of public transport services has continued to improve for the mobility impaired, for example through lower floored vehicles and stops at the same level but also through ticket machines with special functions for the visually impaired.