Zurich Transport Authority- Description

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Zurich, Switzerland's largest city (364,000 population) is located in northern Switzerland on Lake Zurich and the Limmat River.Since it is the most important Swiss manufacturing and commercial center and the financial capital of Switzerland, it is not surprising that its narrow-gauge tramway network is the largest and probably most interesting one in Switzerland.


The first efforts to establish a tramway network in Zurich date back to the year 1864, when several railroad companies tried to start operations. In 1881 the communities of Zurich, Enge, Riesbach and Aussersihl organised a joint venture to establish a horse or steam tramway service. One year later the joint-stock company "Aktiengesellschaft der Zürcher Strassenbahn" was founded and three standard-gauge horse railway lines were built with London Meston & Cie. as general contractor. All three lines were opened to the public in 1882.

The "Elektrische Strassenbahn Zürich" (ESB) company, established in 1893 started serving the higher-lying suburbs of Zurich using metre-gauge electric streetcars as had been done in the Vevey-Montreux-Chillon line.

The municipality of Zurich took over the tramway network of the ESB after the incorporation of several neighbouring communities in 1896 and established the first community tram network in Europe, operating as the Zurich City Tram Company (StStZ).The horse-drawn tramline also merged with StStZ in 1897 and was converted into a metre-gauge network in 1900. Many new tramway routes were built in the inner city area around the turn of the century and several private companies began to serve the outlying areas. For example, the "Zentrale Zürichbahn" company opened the Bellvue-Kirche Fluntern and Platte-Oberstrass routes in 1895 and the Rigiplatz-Seilbahn Rigiviertel route in 1901. The "Strassenbahn Zürich-Oerlikon-Seebach" followed by inaugurating streetcar service on the routes from Central to Oerlikon and Seebach, from Oerlikon to Schwamendingen and from Seebach to Glattbrugg. Other companies established new lines linking the industrial areas of Höngg, Dietikon and Albisgütli.

Numerous private companies merged with StStZ after the turn of the century. Many new lines were built in the 1920's which include the connections to the zoo and to Triemli, Wollishofen and Albisrieden. Unfortunately, some routes were taken out of service in the 1930's: these include the ZOS lines to Glattbrugg and Schwamen-dingen and the Schlieren-Weiningen section . The StStZ was renamed "Verkehrsbetriebe der Stadt Zürich" (VBZ) in 1950. Service on route 1 and the route from Farbhof to Schlieren was abandoned in 1954. In the following years several subway projects failed to pass the plebiscite and were not realised due to the pre-eminence of the automobile. A new combination highway-tram tunnel in the Milchbuck area was opened in 1986. Because the platforms are located between the tracks, the trains run on the left-hand side, deviating from the remaining VBZ network. Hence, the tunnel entries are of special interest: due to the grade-separation the Milchbuck portal is a two-level crossing and the Schwamendingen entry is a grade-level crossing.


VBZ possesses a great variety of different streetcars, including vehicles from several generations. Almost all vehicles are painted standard white and blue, with advertising trams being the exception. Because of the route alignment and passenger loads, various vehicle types are in service on the different lines. The "Tram 2000" type is the largest series and so is generally seen followed by the series 1601 - 1690. Trams built between 1949 and 1960 can be seen on some routes as well. Depending on the time of day, the trams operate with two motor cars or with a trailer on various lines. "Oldtimer" railcars are on exhibition in the Trammuseum (Depot Wartau, check opening times) and can be hired for special excursions on weekends. The so-called "Partytram" is very popular for birthday-parties and is often used for company outings. In October 1996 VBZ ordered a total of 17 units of modern low-floor trams from Adtranz. The first series of six of the so called "Cobra" trams are expected to be commissioned in late 1999.


Using Zurich's railcars is inexpensive, with a 24-hour ticket that costs as much as two single fare tickets. When staying longer, consider purchasing a monthly ticket or a "Tageswahlkarte" that can be used on six days of your choice. Special rates are available for users under 25 and for holders of "half-tax" subscription tickets. Some tickets are sold cheaper at the VBZ ticket counters, such as the one in the main railway station! All means of public transportation( including Limmat river boats) can be used with these tickets.
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Copyright © 1996 Klaus P. Canavan, last change 07-26-98