The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), First Class – Giruno RABe 501: Zürich Airport to Milano Centrale

Introduction

Today I am on my way to Milan to see Salome at La Scala. To be honest, I find Salome more than just a little disturbing, but I have been meaning to see an opera at La Scala for a long time, and now seemed like a good time. I figured I could also use this as an opportunity to run a little experiment of my own and compare journey times between the train and airplane on the route between Zürich and Milan.

First Leg – Zürich Airport to Zürich Main Station

I catch the 14:48 train from the airport to Zürich Main Station. Trains are frequent, and the journey time is usually about eight minutes give and take. At the Main Station I have nine minutes to make my connection.

Second Leg – Zürich Main Station to Lugano

Direct trains between Zürich and Milan run every two hours. Alternatively, there are trains to Lugano with a good connection to Milan, which is what I am doing today. Strangely, the connection via Lugano is even slightly shorter. The departure from Zürich is at 15:05, with an arrival in Lugano at 16:58.

The services to Milan are operated with rolling stock belonging to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). The Giruno is a fairly new addition to the fleet that was introduced to replace the highly unreliable Pendolino trains that previously ran on the line. Like its predecessor, the Giruno has tilting capabilities that allow it to travel at higher speed through Switzerland’s mountainous terrain. The Giruno is built by Swiss manufacturer Stadler.

The Cabin & Seat

There are four First Class coaches, one dining car and six Second Class coaches that make up a unit. Today two units have been coupled together. The First Class cabin is spacious and comfortable in a 1 + 2 configuration. There are plenty of seat options available depending on whether you are travelling on your own, as a couple or in a larger group. However, if you are planning to work on your laptop, take note that not all seats have a tray table suitable to place a laptop on. Some seats do not have a tray table at all.

Every seat comes with a coat hook and a power outlet, with separate plugs for European and Swiss standards.

The Route

The journey from Zürich to Milan is interesting and scenic, as it takes the train past Lake Zürich, Lake Zug, and Lake Lucerne. The route also passes through the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard, with a length of 57 kilometres. The journey through the tunnel takes about 20 minutes. It is the only time the train speeds up to 200km/h on the journey.

Catering

The dining car serves a wide selection of hot and cold dishes that you can enjoy in the dining car or that can be taken away to eat at your seat.

Third Leg – Lugano to Milano Centrale

I have four minutes to make the connection in Lugano. And from what I am told, they usually wait if there is a bit of a delay. The trip from Lugano to Milan is operated by a Swiss regional train. There is a First Class section at the head of the train, but reservations are not possible. Seating is arranged in facing pairs. The only difference to Second Class is that the pitch is slightly better. The train leaves Lugano at 17:02, to arrive at 18:15. However, we pick up a delay on the way, so that the train does pull into Centrale until 18:28.

Getting to the Hotel

In Milan I am staying at the Room Mate Giulia Hotel near the Duomo, in walking distance to La Scala. It is four stops by metro from Centrale. Eventually, I arrive at the hotel at 18:45, more or less four hours after I departed from Zürich Airport.

Conclusion

The journey from Zürich Airport to Milano Centrale is easy and straightforward. The Giruno is a very nice and comfortable train. It is also very nice that the hotel is only four stops away by metro, which is very convenient. The only negative aspect of the journey is the regional train for the last sector from Lugano to Milan. Not only is that train not very comfortable, it was also incredibly crowded from Como onwards and all the way to Centrale. I think next time, I would make sure to catch one of the direct services instead.

SBB, First Class: Genève Cointrin airport to Adelboden

Introduction

I arrive in Geneva on a Luxair flight from Luxembourg. It’s Maundy Thursday and the beginning of the long Easter weekend.

I exit through customs and turn left. At the end of the terminal is the entrance to the airport’s railway station.

On my way to the platform, I come across this sign. Manor is a Swiss department store. I find it interesting that their poster clearly mentions the new Easyjet dimensions for cabin luggage. And that they’re using the Easyjet branding.

Boarding

Geneva airport is a terminus station, trains can only arrive and depart from one direction. The last time I visited, admittedly a few years ago, the place was very dark and looked like a sad reject from the 70s. So it’s rather nice to see it updated.

The train

The journey from Geneva will take me directly to Berne, with the train calling at Geneva’s main station, Lausanne, and Fribourg on the way.

The service is operated by a Bombardier Dosto train of the Swiss Federal Railways. The Dosto is a modern and attractive train that the Swiss public just loves to hate. Mainly, this is due to the fact that the train allegedly has some amazing new technology that allows it to take curves at a higher speed. However, the system has been plagued with many issues. As a result, the train sometimes starts rocking violently from side to side and for no apparent reason. It’s strong enough to knock you off your feet if you’re not holding on to something.

The First Class cabin of the Dosto is bright and feels unclustered. The seats are comfortable and soft and all come with their own power socket and a reading lamp. The recline and pitch are generous. The only drawback is that there‘s not a lot of storage space on the upper deck. The hat racks are very narrow and not very high. They can hold little else than a coat. There are baggage racks, but they’re not really large enough to hold anything more than one large suitcase.

Seating is three abreast, with groups of four facing seats on one side and groups of two facing seats on the other. There are only two single seats in each First Class carriage. I rather like these seats, because they’re private and offer a little bit extra room to place things.

The route

A long stretch of the journey runs along lake Geneva. It’s a lovely evening and the views of the lake below are just gorgeous!

The journey from Geneva to Berne takes just under two hours. I make a brief stop to get dinner in Berne, and then continue to Adelboden. To get there, I first take a fast train to Spiez, change there to a regional train to Frutigen, and then from there catch the bus to Adelboden. By the time I arrive at the hotel it’s just gone 22h00.