Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich

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Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich
IndustryPublic transport
OwnerCity of Zürich
VBZ trams and buses in central Zürich

Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ) is a public transport operator in the Swiss city of Zürich, and is wholly owned by the city. Previously known as the Städtische Strassenbahn Zürich (StStZ), the organisation was founded in 1896 and adopted its current name in 1950.[1][2][3]

The VBZ owns and operates trams, trolleybuses, buses, and a funicular. It also operates, but does not own, a further funicular, a rack railway, and the Stadtbahn Glattal light rail system.[4][5]

All of VBZ's passenger services are operated within the tariff and ticketing system provided by the cantonal public transport authority Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV). The ZVV tariff also covers other passenger transport services in and around the city, including the Zürich S-Bahn, although these are not operated by the VBZ.


The mix of tram routes in 1899

The Städtische Strassenbahn Zürich (StStZ) came into existence in 1896, when the City of Zürich purchased the Elektrische Strassenbahn Zürich (ESZ). However privately owned tram systems had operated in the city since 1882, and private and public operation of tram systems within the city continued in parallel until 1931, with the StStZ gradually acquiring the private sector companies.[6]

In 1927, the StStZ introduced its first motor bus route, and in 1939 this was joined by the first trolleybus route. In 1940 the StStZ started a modernisation of its trams, introducing the first prototypes of the Swiss Standard Tram. Despite Switzerland's neutrality, the economic effects of the second world war slowed down the program, but by 1953 the VBZ had taken delivery of 177 such trams.[3][6]

A station built for the abortive U-Bahn

In 1950 the StStZ changed its name to the Verkehrsbetriebe der Stadt Zürich (VBZ) to reflect the broader nature of its services. This name was further refined to Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich in 1978, with the use of the name VBZ Züri-Linie in some marketing contexts.[6]

In 1962, a proposal for a metro or U-Bahn network was rejected by the voters of Zürich, a rejection that was repeated in 1973. This notwithstanding, several stretches of U-Bahn were built but never opened. Today, one such stretch is used by the VBZ tram network, whilst another is used as the terminus of the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn (SZU) at Zürich Hauptbahnhof station.[3][6]

In 1990, the VBZ became a partner of the Zurich Transport Network or Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV), a body which coordinates public transport provision and tariffs throughout the canton of Zürich. In 2006 the first phase of the Stadtbahn Glattal opened, with further phases opening in 2008 and 2010. In 2011 the city tram network was extended by the opening of the Zürich West project.[6]



A pair of two-section Tram 2000 trams on typical VBZ street track

Trams make an important contribution to public transport in the city, with the tram network serving most city neighbourhoods, and are the backbone of public transport within the city. Most of the tram routes run from suburb to suburb via the city centre.

The VBZ owns the tram infrastructure within the city, and operates trams both over its own infrastructure and over the infrastructure of the Stadtbahn Glattal, a light rail system situated to the north of the city and owned by the Verkehrsbetriebe Glattal (VBG). Whilst some of the routes operated over the Stadtbahn Glattal are branded as VBG routes, all such services are actually operated by the VBZ under contract to the VBG.[5]

The joint tram network of the VBZ and VBG comprises 15 separate routes. The network operates on meter gauge track, electrified using overhead line at 600 V DC. The VBZ infrastructure is largely street based, with varying degrees of segregation from other street traffic but little use of dedicated rights of way for the trams with the notable exception of a tram tunnel in north-east Zürich that was originally built for an abortive metro system, and modified for tram usage. By contrast, on VBG infrastructure, VBZ trams operate on long stretches of dedicated track.[5][7]

A Bombardier Cobra low floor tram in VBG livery on Stadtbahn Glattal right of way

The independent Forchbahn (FB) railway uses VBZ trackwork to reach the centre of Zürich from the eastern edge of the city. The FB trains operate largely in the street for this section of their route, sharing track with VBZ tram routes, but are categorised as part of the city's S-Bahn railway network rather than as part of the tram network. Two membership associations, the Tram-Museum Zürich and the Aktion Pro Sächsitram, also use VBZ tracks to operate occasional heritage tram services.[5][7]

The VBZ owns 313 tram vehicles, which between them cover over 16 million vehicle-kilometres per year. Of these, 88 are modern low-floor Bombardier Cobra trams delivered between 2001 and 2010. All the remaining trams in regular passenger service are of the Tram 2000 design, of which 201 vehicles were delivered between 1976 and 1992. Whilst the Tram 2000 is a high-floor design, 23 trams have been rebuilt with the addition of a low-floor centre section. Unlike the five-section Cobras, which normally only operate singly, the Tram 2000 vehicles are composed of one, two, or (in the case of rebuilt units) three sections, and in most cases operate in multiple.[8][9]

The tram network carries 202 million passengers trips per year, adding up to 368 million passenger-kilometres.[10]


The city's tram routes are supported by 6 trolleybus routes, with a total route length of 54.0 km (33.6 mi). As with the city's tram routes, most of the trolleybus routes run from suburb to suburb, although their penetration of the city centre is less complete than the trams. Like the tram network, the trolleybus network is electrified using overhead line at 600 V DC, and shares a common electrical supply infrastructure.[11]

Service is provided by 80 trolleybuses, which between them cover over 5 million vehicle-kilometres per year. All the city's trolleybuses are articulated buses, with 17 being extra-long double-articulated vehicles. All the double-articulated vehicles, along with a further 18 of the single-articulated units, are low floor.[8][9]

The trolleybus network carries 54 million passengers trips per year, adding up to 119 million passenger-kilometres.[10]

Motor buses[edit]

A Neoplan N 4516 motor bus

The VBZ also operates 60 motor bus routes. The bus routes can be broken down into urban routes (18 routes), district routes (9 local minibus operated feeder routes within the city) and regional routes (33 routes in the region around the city).[11]

The VBZ operates 181 motor buses, of which 85 are standard buses, 73 are articulated buses and 23 are minibuses. With the exception of 8 articulated buses, all motor buses are low floor. VBZ buses on the urban routes cover just under 6 million vehicle-kilometres a year per year, with district routes adding a further 1 million vehicle-kilometres and regional routes contributing 2 million vehicle-kilometres. Additionally, much of the regional service is provided by contractors operating on behalf of the VBZ, with such services covering a further 4 million vehicle-kilometers per year.[8][9]

The urban motor bus network carries 37 million passengers trips per year, adding up to 75 million passenger-kilometres. The district bus network carries 2 million passengers trips per year, adding up to 3 million passenger-kilometres. The regional bus network carries 20 million passengers trips per year, adding up to 62 million passenger-kilometres.[10]

Funiculars and rack railways[edit]

The VBZ operates two funiculars and one rack railway within the city of Zürich:

  • The Rigiblick funicular, in the north-east of the city, connects a lower station served by tram and trolley bus routes with an upper station at Rigiblick on the Zürichberg hill. It is both owned and operated by the VBZ.[5]
  • The Polybahn funicular, in the centre of the city, links the city centre with the university. It is operated by the VBZ on behalf of its owners, the banking group UBS AG.[5]
  • The Dolderbahn rack railway, in Zürich's eastern suburbs, connects a lower station served by trams with an upper station adjacent to the Dolder Grand Hotel. It is operated by the VBZ on behalf of its owners, the Dolderbahn-Betriebs AG.[5]

Tariffs and tickets[edit]

Ticket machine

All services operated by the VBZ operate on a proof-of-payment system. Passengers are required to purchase a ticket before boarding any vehicle. Passengers may board through any door and are not required to show tickets on boarding.

Tickets may be purchased from machines found at all of the VBZ's tram stops, and many bus stops. At bus stops without ticket machines, passengers without tickets must board through the front door and purchase a ticket from the driver. Ticket checks are randomly carried out by roving teams of fare inspectors, and penalties are imposed on passengers found without a valid ticket.[12]

VBZ's passenger services are operated within the tariff and ticketing system provided by the cantonal public transport authority Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV). This system covers the whole of the canton of Zürich and thus covers travel on services provided by many other operators, and includes the Zürich S-Bahn suburban rail network. Free transfer is permitted between different vehicles, routes, modes and operators, provided a ticket valid for the whole journey is held.[13]

The ZVV system is zonal in nature, with fares for individual journeys set by the zones the journey passes through. Not all zones are equal, with higher fares being charged for travel in some zones. The whole of the city of Zürich is within a single zone, but as some VBZ routes travel beyond the city boundaries, a multi-zone ticket is needed for some VBZ journeys. Both single journey and day tickets are available, as are a number of passes with longer validities.[13]

Other activities[edit]

Besides its passenger transport activities, VBZ, jointly with the city refuse and recycling department ERZ, operates the cargo tram to collect bulky waste. The cargo tram serves 9 different collection points around Zürich, calling at each on different days of the month. The collected refuse is taken to a specially constructed siding at the ERZ yard adjacent to the Werdhölzli tram terminus.[14]

VBZ also offers various services such as the hire of heritage trams, engineering and repair services using its well-equipped and modern workshops and also transport consulting services.

In 1927, a group of VBZ employees founded their own football club called FC VBZ. As of 2020, the club is still active and competes in the corporate league.


  1. ^ Moglestue, Andrew (April 2005). "Zürich: Top city — thanks to light rail". Tramways & Urban Transit. Ian Allan Ltd / Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 130–134.
  2. ^ Moglestue, Andrew (May 2005). "Zürich: The Cobra rules, all above ground". Tramways & Urban Transit. Ian Allan Ltd / Light Rail Transit Association. pp. 180–184.
  3. ^ a b c Moglestue, Andrew (December 2005). "Zürich: A city and its trams". Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ "Facts & figures - Routes". VBZ. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz. Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH. 2012. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-3-89494-130-7.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Facts & figures - Corporate history". VBZ. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  7. ^ a b "Gleisplan - Straßenbahn Zürich mit Glattal" [Trackplan - Zürich with Glattal] (PDF) (in German). March 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
  8. ^ a b c "VBZ - Portrait - Facts & figures - Vehicles". City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  9. ^ a b c "VBZ - Portrait - Facts & figures - Service". City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  10. ^ a b c "VBZ - Portrait - Facts & figures - Passengers". City of Zürich. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  11. ^ a b "VBZ - Portrait - Facts & figures - Routes". City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2013-03-23. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  12. ^ "VBZ - Automatic ticket machine". City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  13. ^ a b "VBZ - Fare zone system". City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  14. ^ "Cargo- und E-Tram" [Cargo- and E-Tram] (in German). City of Zürich. Archived from the original on 2012-08-29. Retrieved 2012-05-09.

External links[edit]