Zürich S-Bahn

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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.
LocaleZürich, Switzerland
Transit typeS-Bahn
Number of lines32
Number of stations171[1]
Daily ridership456,073 (2015)[2]
Began operation1990; 33 years ago (1990)
Operator(s)SBB CFF FFS
System length380 km (240 mi)[1]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) metre gauge
Some dual gauge track
Siemens RABe 514 "DTZ" on the S8 service, which extends into Thurgau
1960s rolling stock (RBe 540 multiple units and rebuilt EW I coaches)
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 neighbouring cantons (Aargau, Glarus, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, St. Gallen, Thurgau and Zug), with a few lines extending into or crossing the territory of southern 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 a quarter of seats on each train are first class.[3]


Before the construction of the Zürich S-Bahn, most trains to Zürich terminated at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (literally Zürich Main Station), apart from the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn lines which terminated at Zürich Selnau. Originally built as a west-facing terminus, the Hauptbahnhof acted as a terminus for trains coming from all directions. It was connected to lines to the north and northeast via the Wipkingen Tunnel and Zürich Oerlikon railway station. The Hauptbahnhof was also connected via the Letten Tunnel to the Lake Zürich right-bank railway line to the southeast. This line also stopped at Stadelhofen station at the opposite side of the city centre, before passing through the single track tunnel to Letten station, then turning 180 degrees to reach the Hauptbahnhof. This line travelled 5 km to cover the 1.5 km distance between Stadelhofen and the Hauptbahnhof.[4]

Gold Coast Express[edit]

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[edit]

Map of the 1970s proposal for a combined 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, with the latter being a railway network centred on a tunnel under the city centre, which would connect to existing suburban railway lines. From Zurich Airport, an U-Bahn line would run via Glattbrugg, Oerlikon, Hirschenwiesen, Central, Zürich Hauptbahnhof, 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 Hauptbahnhof via a new tunnel under the Zürichberg to Dietlikon to the northeast (not to be confused with Dietikon, which lies to the west of Zürich). The proposed construction of an underground station in Museumstrasse on the north side of the Hauptbahnhof was intended to ease the pressure on the Hauptbahnhof.[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[edit]

Initial construction in 1981–90, creating three tunnels, two new stations and new platforms at the Hauptbahnhof. The closed Letten Tunnel is in gray.

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 CFF FFS), the owner of most of the railways. The SBB CFF FFS 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 Hauptbahnhof 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 following changes were made:

  • The construction of the Hirschengraben tunnel between the Hauptbahnhof and Stadelhofen. Four new platforms were built under the existing Hauptbahnhof, along with connections to the existing western lines. The Letten Tunnel and station were closed.
  • The construction of the Zürichberg Tunnel, which connected Stadelhofen to lines to the northeast, as well as having a new station at Stettbach.
  • The extension of the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn lines from Selnau to the Hauptbahnhof, with the Selnau terminus closed and replaced with an underground through station.
  • The opening of Hardbrücke railway station in 1982, between the Hauptbahnhof and Altstetten to the west.
  • The redevelopment of Stadelhofen station, with an architecture award-winning design by Santiago Calatrava.

Opening and expansion[edit]

On 27 May 1990, the S-Bahn was brought into operation and the Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (Zurich 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[edit]

Second through line via the Weinberg Tunnel

Following a successful referendum, a project was established to create a new route between the Hauptbahnhof and Oerlikon station. Unlike the existing two routes between the stations, the Weinberg tunnel would approach the Hauptbahnhof from the east, allowing trains to run between the western and northern lines without bypassing the central station. This route was known as Durchmesserlinie Zürich, and was for use of both long-distance and S-Bahn trains. The project also included a third set of underground platforms under Zürich Hauptbahnhof, a new elevated route through the western approaches and two extra platforms at Oerlikon.

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[edit]

As of the December 2021 timetable change, 32 services comprise the Zürich S-Bahn network.[15] The lines are numbered (2‒21, 23‒26, 29‒30, 33, 35‒36, 40‒42) using the prefix "S", which is typical for S-Bahn systems. With the exception of lines S13, S17, S18, S26, S29, S30, S33, S35, S36, S40, and S41, all routes run through or terminate at Zurich mainstation. The S27 service between Siebnen-Wangen and Ziegelbrücke, operated by SOB during peak-hours, is neither part of the Zürich S-Bahn nor the St. Gallen S-Bahn network.

Unless noted otherwise, all services operate every 30 minutes throughout the day and follow a strict, regular timetable. This is known in the German speaking world as a Taktfahrplan, or clock-face scheduling in English. There may be additional trains during peak periods, and a reduced frequency in the evenings and/or at weekends. Timely connecting services often exist at junction stations.[16]

# Route Notes Operator
S2 Zürich FlughafenOerlikonZürich HBThalwilPfäffikon SZZiegelbrücke (– Unterterzen) Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Ziegelbrücke. SBB
S3 (Bülach –) HardbrückeZürich HBEffretikonWetzikon Operates between Hardbrücke and Bülach only during peak-hours. SBB
S4 Zürich HBAdliswilLangnau-Gattikon ( – Sihlwald ) Operates every 20 minutes between Zürich HB and Langnau-Gattikon; one train per hour continues to Sihlwald. SZU
S5 ZugAffoltern am AlbisZürich HBUsterWetzikonRapperswilPfäffikon SZ Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Wetzikon. SBB
S6 Baden AGRegensdorf-WattHardbrückeZürich HBUetikon SBB
S7 WinterthurKlotenHardbrückeZürich HBMeilenRapperswil Non-stop between Zürich Stadelhofen and Meilen. SBB
S8 WinterthurWallisellenOerlikonZürich HBThalwilPfäffikon SZ (– Ziegelbrücke) SBB
S9 (Schaffhausen –) RafzHardbrückeZürich HBUster Alternate trains operate between Schaffhausen and Rafz. Currently serves two locations in Germany. SBB
S10 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
S11 (AarauLenzburg –) DietikonZürich HBZürich StettbachWinterthurSeuzach / Sennhof-Kyburg (– Wila) Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Winterthur; trains operate alternately to Sennhof-Kyburg (Wila during peak-hours) and Seuzach. SBB
S12 Brugg AGZürich HBZürich StettbachWinterthurSchaffhausen / Wil SG Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Winterthur; trains operate alternately to Schaffhausen and Wil. SBB
S13 WädenswilSamstagernEinsiedeln SOB
S14 Affoltern am AlbisZürich HBOerlikonUsterWetzikonHinwil SBB
S15 NiederweningenHardbrückeZürich HBUsterWetzikonRapperswil Stops only at selected stations between Zürich HB and Wetzikon SBB
S16 Zürich FlughafenHardbrückeZürich HBHerrliberg-Feldmeilen (– Meilen) Operates to Meilen in the evenings only SBB
S17 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. AVA
S18 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
S19 ( KoblenzBaden – ) DietikonZürich HBOerlikonEffretikon ( – Pfäffikon ZH ) Operates Monday-Friday between Koblenz to Dietikon and between Effretikon to Pfäffikon ZH during peak periods only. SBB
S20 UerikonZürich HBHardbrücke Peak-hour service only. SBB
S21 Regensdorf-WattHardbrückeZürich HB Peak-hour service only. No stop at Seebach station. SBB
S23 Zürich HBZürich StadelhofenWinterthurFrauenfeldRomanshorn Peak-hour service only. SBB
S24 Thayngen / WeinfeldenWinterthurZürich FlughafenWipkingenZürich HBThalwilZug Alternate trains operate between Thayngen (stops only at selected stations) and Weinfelden. SBB
S25 Zürich HBPfäffikon SZZiegelbrückeGlarusLinthal Hourly service. Serves only selected stops between Zürich HB and Näfels-Mollis. Half-hourly service between Ziegelbrücke and Schwanden GL in combination with S6 of St. Gallen S-Bahn. SBB
S26 WinterthurBaumaRüti ZH Commonly called the Tösstalbahn. Thurbo
S29 WinterthurStein am Rhein Thurbo
S30 WinterthurFrauenfeldWeinfelden (– RomanshornRorschach) Hourly service. Half-hourly service between Winterthur and Weinfelden in combination with S24 Thurbo
S33 WinterthurAndelfingenSchaffhausen Hourly service. Half-hourly service in combination with S12 SBB
S35 WinterthurWil SG Hourly service. Half-hourly service in combination with S12 Thurbo
S36 WaldshutBad ZurzachBülach Hourly service Thurbo
S40 RapperswilPfäffikon SZSamstagernEinsiedeln Continues hourly as S6 of St. Gallen S-Bahn between Rapperswil and Schwanden GL. During peak-hours, it is coupled/uncoupled with the Voralpen Express (portion working), and operates as InterRegio between Rapperswil and St. Gallen. SOB
S41 WinterthurBülach Thurbo
S42 Zürich HBOthmarsingenMuri AG Peak-hour service only. SBB

Nighttime services[edit]

During weekends, in the night from Friday to Saturday and from Saturday to Sunday, there are nighttime S-Bahn services (designated SN followed by the route number) and nighttime bus services (designated N followed by the line number). Nighttime services operate from 1 o'clock until the early morning hours.[17] The nighttime S-Bahn and bus routes form a network,[18] which is different from the daytime network. Most SN services run hourly. As of December 2022, the following nighttime S-Bahn services existed:

# Route Operator
SN1 WinterthurStettbachZürich HBDietikonBadenBrugg AGLenzburgAarau SBB CFF FFS
SN3 WinterthurAndelfingenSchaffhausen (– Stein am Rhein) THURBO
SN4 Zürich HBLangnau-Gattikon SZU
SN5 KnonauZürich HBUsterRapperswilPfäffikon SZ SBB CFF FFS
SN6 WürenlosZürich HBWinterthur SBB CFF FFS
SN7 BassersdorfKlotenZürich HBMeilenStäfa SBB CFF FFS
SN8 Pfäffikon ZHEffretikonWallisellenZürich HBWädenswilPfäffikon SZLachen SBB CFF FFS
SN9 BülachZürich HBUster SBB CFF FFS
SN18 Zürich StadelhofenEgg FB
SN41 WinterthurEmbrach-RorbasBülach THURBO
SN BülachRafzJestettenSchaffhausen THURBO
SN WinterthurFrauenfeldWeinfeldenAmriswilRomanshorn THURBO
SN WinterthurElggWil SGGossau SGSt. GallenSt. Margrethen THURBO

Previous services[edit]

  • The S1 formerly linked Zürich and Zug via Thalwil. It was renamed the S21 after the opening of the S1 line of the Lucerne-Zug network (Zug Stadtbahn and Lucerne S-Bahn) in 2004 to avoid confusion. It is discontinued and replaced with the part of the line S24.
  • The former S11 was a rush hour service. It was subsumed into the S23 in December 2018 when the current S11 service opened.
  • The former S12 operated between Brugg and Seuzach/Seen until December 2018.
  • The former S21 was subsumed into the S24 after the opening of the Weinberg Tunnel in 2014.
  • The S22 formerly linked Bülach with Singen (in Germany) via Schaffhausen. It has been replaced by the S9 and S24 services, respectively, in 2015. A line numbered S22 still ran between Jestetten and Singen (Hohentwiel) until 2018, operated by THURBO, but this one is currently running as an unnumbered S-Bahn service of Schaffhausen S-Bahn [de].
  • The S31 used to run across the Seedamm, between Rapperswil and Pfäffikon SZ.
  • The S43 ran between Rüti ZH and Wald ZH (near Rapperswil) and had only three stations and was in fact a limited service of S26. It has been replaced by a bus route.
  • The S55 formerly linked Niederweningen and Oberglatt, as a short-working of the S5. It has now been replaced by the S15.
  • The S3 formerly operated between Wetzikon and Aarau via Dietikon. However its western route is overtaken by the S11, it runs to Hardbrücke (or Bülach) instead.

International services[edit]

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. These two stations are located entirely on German soil, but all the infrastructure belongs to SBB. Service S36 crosses the border at the end of its journey, in order to terminate at Waldshut station in Germany.

Network map[edit]


Future developments[edit]

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 named Projekt S-Bahn 2G 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.[19]

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.[20]


  • Robert, Fechtig; Max Glättli (1990). Projektierung und Bau der S-Bahn Zürich (Planning and Construction of the Zürich S-Bahn) (in German). Zürich: Stäubli Verlag. ISBN 3-7266-0021-3.
  • Künzi, Hans (1998). Zürichs öffentlicher Verkehr und seine S-Bahn (Zürich's public transport and its S-Bahn) (in German). Zürich: Gelehrte Gesellschaft. ISBN 3-906262-10-3.
  • Hobmeier, Norbert (1990). Die S-Bahn Zürich (The Zürich S-Bahn) (in German). Zürich: Orell Füssli. ISBN 3-280-01763-7.


  1. ^ a b S-Bahn Zürich. Daten und Fakten. SBB Division Personenverkehr, 2003 (Broschüre)
  2. ^ "Fahrgastzahlen". Archived from the original on 2016-02-21. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  3. ^ seating ratio calculated from specifications for DTZ RABe 514 Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2011-02-13
  4. ^ Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz. Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH. 2012. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-3-89494-130-7.
  5. ^ a b c "Die Geburtsstunde der Zürcher S-Bahn (The birth of the Zürich S-Bahn)" (in German). NZZ Online. 26 May 2008. Archived from the original on 16 June 2009. 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. ^ a b 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". Archived from the original on 2014-06-23. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  14. ^ a b Haydock, David (August 2014). "Zürich's New S-Bahn Tunnel". Today's Railways Europe. No. 224. Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. pp. 28–32.
  15. ^ Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (2021). "Geschäftsbericht 2021" (PDF) (in German). p. 20. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  16. ^ "S-Bahn trains, buses and boats" (PDF). ZVV. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  17. ^ Nacht fahrplan und liniennetz (in German)
  18. ^ Nachtnetz. an Wochenenden (in German)
  19. ^ Rohrer, Jürg (6 August 2014). "Das Zürcher Tramnetz in 20 Jahren" [The Zürich tram network in 20 years]. Tages Anzeiger (in German). Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  20. ^ "Tunnelbahnhof für «Science City" (PDF) (in German). ADF Innovation Consulting. 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to S-Bahn Zürich at Wikimedia Commons