Zürich Hauptbahnhof

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Zürich Hauptbahnhof (often shortened to Zürich HB) (Template:Lang-en) is the largest railway station in Switzerland. Zürich is a major railway hub, with services to and from across Switzerland and neighbouring European countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria and France. Constructed as the terminus of the Spanisch Brötli Bahn, the first railway built completely within Switzerland, it is one of the oldest railway stations in Switzerland. Serving up to 2,915 trains per day, Zürich HB is one of the busiest railway stations in the world.

It is in the Altstadt or old town in central Zürich at the confluence of the rivers Limmat and Sihl, where the river Sihl passes the station in a tunnel between the tracks on the upper and the lower level. The station railway yards extend about Template:Convert to the west.

The station is included in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance.


Construction and modernization

File:Isenring Bahnhof Zürich 1847.jpg
The first station, by Gustav Albert Wegmann, 1847.
File:Grundriss Bahnhof Zürich und Baden.jpg
Ground plan and location diagram of the first station building in Zürich, 1847.

The first Zürich railway station was built by Gustav Albert Wegmann, on what were then the north-western outskirts of the city. It was the terminus of the Spanisch-Brötli-Bahn, opened on 9 August 1847. Within five years there was a continuous railway line across north-western Switzerland to Lausanne via Solothurn.

In 1871, the original station building gave way to a new building at the same site. The new structure was designed by architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner to meet Zürich's increased transport needs. Its main entrance is a triumphal arch facing the end of the then newly built Bahnhofstrasse. In front of the arch stands a monument to the railway pioneer Alfred Escher. The magnificent sandstone neo-Renaissance building features richly decorated lobbies and atriums, restaurants and halls. Originally housed inside it was the headquarters of the Schweizerische Nordostbahn (NOB). The train shed, spanned by iron trusses, initially covered six tracks. Its stone walls with arches and arched windows portrayed a simple, monumental impression of space.

The station received its Zürich Hauptbahnhof in 1893, to reflect that year's incorporation of many of Zürich's suburbs into an enlarged municipality. In 1902, the year the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) took over the Schweizerische Centralbahn and the NOB, the tracks inside the eastern end of the train shed were lifted, due to a lack of space. Since then, these tracks have terminated at a more central location, immediately to the north of the Bahnhofstrasse. Also in 1902, four more tracks and a north wing with a restaurant and railway mail service were added to the north of the train shed. In the vacant space left inside the train shed, new rooms were built for baggage handling.

Construction of the train shed, 1870.
File:Hauptbahnhof Zürich 1871.jpg
First photo of the new Hauptbahnhof, 1871.
File:Spelterini HB Zürich.jpg
The Hauptbahnhof in a photo by Eduard Spelterini, ca. 1907.
File:Bahnhofplatz - Hauptbahnhof - Bahnhofstrasse Zürich 2010-09-21 14-34-44 ShiftN.jpg
View from the Bahnhofstrasse, with Richard Kissling's monumental fountain in the foreground.

On 18 February 1916, the SBB decided that electrification of its network would be by the high-tension single-phase alternating current system that is still used on all routes. On 5 February 1923, the electrified Zug–Zürich railway was put into operation, the first electrified line to Zurich. By 1927 all routes from Zürich Hauptbahnhof had been electrified.

In 1933, the station's simple concourse and the iron and glass train shed were created with seven and a half arches to cover 16 tracks. As part of that work, the main shed was shortened by two segments.

In the 1940s, the line between Zürich and Geneva served as a "parade route". The first lightweight steel express train had entered service on this route in 1937. By 11 June 1960, the SBB network was largely electrified. In the following year, the SBB introduced its first four-system electric trains under the Trans Europ Express banner, and thereby increased the Zürich Hauptbahnhof's international importance.

In 1963, about 500 metres before the concourse, an imposing six-storey concrete cube arose in the station yard. It was designed by SBB architect Max Vogt, and since 1966 has been the home of the Zentralstellwerk Zürich (central signalling control). The then state-of-the-art relay-controlled interlocking system replaced the decentralised mechanical and electro-mechanical signal boxes in the station throat, including the Stellwerk «Seufzerbrücke» ("Bridge of Sighs" signal box), which had spanned the entire station throat just east of the Langstrasse.

The signalling control system was modernized to coincide with the commissioning of the Zürich S-Bahn. It is equipped with a computerized controller that performs the standard operations. Apart from the tracks and points (switches) of the "Sihlpost station" (which are controlled by an electronic control system), the entire control of the points and signals in the Langstrasse–Concourse section is still largely under relay control, in some cases with the original relay sets installed in 1966.

The immense station yard, with its platform tracks and station building, is a bottleneck for the city of Zürich. The Limmat and the Sihl were further bottlenecks, and the combination of the three led to gridlock in the 1950s and 1960s. In parallel, there were plans for a subway system. Although the people voted in 1962 against it, the city's Civil Engineering Department had started by then to convert the Bahnhofplatz for the purpose of a possible underground line.

Shopville and S-Bahn

On 1 October 1970, construction of Bahnhofplatz and the pedestrian and shopping arcade Shopville was completed. Upon its opening, the Bahnhofplatz became a pedestrian-free zone, and the underground Shopville the only access to the station. Contrary to expectations, Shopville did not capture the support of the people, who, in 1973, voted even more emphatically to reject a subway system.

In the 1980s, Shopville became a drug-dealing hub, due to its proximity to the Autonomen Jugendzentrum Zürich ("Autonomous Youth Center Zürich"). Its low point was reached at the end of the decade, when travellers avoided all parts of it other than the concourse and the tram stop. Consequently, there were several night-time closures by mesh fences. However, the solution to this problem was foreseeable, as the people had agreed on 29 November 1981 to the construction of the Zürich S-Bahn and the extension of the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn to the Hauptbahnhof.

For the S-Bahn the Template:Convert long Hirschengraben Tunnel was built from the Hauptbahnhof to Zürich Stadelhofen. This new line continued through the Zürichberg Tunnel to Stettbach, with connections to the existing lines to Dietlikon and Dübendorf.<ref name=saw64-65>Template:Cite book</ref> In the Hauptbahnhof, two underground stations were constructed. For the S-Bahn a four-track station with the working title Museumstrasse was built, and the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn was extended to the SZU station, which had once been intended for the never-realized U-Bahn. The opening of the S-Bahn was on 27 May 1990.

Since 1990, underground shopping arcades have connected the two underground stations with the main hall. Black and white striped walls of marble floors and granite are the main design features of what is one of the largest shopping centres in Switzerland.

In 1996, the main hall was cleared of its temporary installations. In 1997, the train shed was fitted on both sides with pitched roofs on sloping concrete supports, designed by local architects Meili, Peter.

Löwenstrasse station

The planning of the S-Bahn and the Rail 2000 long-haul project raised the idea of building the Weinberg Tunnel, a through route from Zürich Hauptbahnhof to Oerlikon. That proposal was initially postponed, but the great success of the S-Bahn led to an expansion of services and, consequently, to capacity constraints. Plans were made to expand existing rail lines within Zürich leading to the north, but this encountered resistance from the population living near those rail lines. As an alternative the construction of the Weinberg tunnel and four additional underground tracks in the railway station was suggested and confirmed by a referendum.

In 2002, an architectural competition was held for the new Löwenstrasse transit station, won by the architect Jean-Pierre Dürig. On 22 December 2006, the Federal Office of Transport approved the building of the tunnel and a third underground four-track Löwenstrasse station. In September 2007, construction began on the project, nicknamed "Durchmesserlinie" (cross-city link).

The new line runs from the Altstetten railway station, crosses the Zürich HB station throat on a bridge, and leads into the underground Löwenstrasse station. From there, it goes through the new, approximately Template:Convert long Weinberg Tunnel in a long left-hand curve under the existing Zürich HB–Stadelhofen line. It then ends at the level of the portals of the existing Wipkinger Tunnels in Oerlikon, where it connects with the northbound lines, including the line to Zurich Airport and Winterthur HB.

In 2007, the SBB and Deutsche Bahn entered into a station partnership between the Zürich HB and the Berlin Hauptbahnhof to promote knowledge sharing between operators of similarly-sized stations.



Access to the station is via the underground Sihlquai Passage and the newly created Gessnerallee Passage. The Gessnerallee Passage will also provide an additional 1700 m² of retail space.

Station bells, clock and lights

There are station bells above the rear exit of the large hall. In the 1847 station, bells rang before each departure of the Spanisch-Brötli-Bahn. The signal order prescribed as follows: "10 minutes before the departure of a train, one [bell]; 5 minutes before the same, two [bells]; and immediately prior to departure, three bells". For the 1871 renovations, the architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner gave the station clock the place of honour in the portal above the main entrance, and the bells were placed in a small tower in the east facade.

On 12 September 2006, to commemorate the station's 150th anniversary, the ETH Zürich installed the NOVA, a three-dimensional, bivalent display, which consists of 25,000 individually addressable light balls. It represents a play of light of several colours, but can also represent cinematic sequences. It is expected to remain hanging in the station until further notice.

Concourse and ShopVille

The former, almost completely renovated station concourse is one of the largest covered spaces in Europe, at over 55,000 m². Events take place there frequently, including "open air" cinema; vegetable, flea and Christmas markets; and events such as skating, beach volleyball and the "warm up" for the Street Parade.

Underneath the Bahnhofplatz and the station is the large underground shopping centre called "ShopVille" of over 200 shops or other businesses. It benefits from the Swiss employment law rule that while generally labour on Sundays is not allowed, it is allowed in "centres of public transport". The huge underground "Rail City" is, therefore, usually bustling on Sundays even while the streets of Zurich are largely empty.

SBB Lounge

Since 8 June 2009, Zürich HB has been the site of the first SBB Lounge. This waiting room is exclusively for holders of a first-class general subscription or a valid international first-class ticket or for frequent traveller program members of the Railteam partner railways.


Zürich Hauptbahnhof Statistics
"Long Distance" tracks 16
tracks 3 to 18, Street Level
"S-Bahn" tracks 10
tracks 1+2, 41 to 44 underground
tracks 51–54 Street level
(daily number of arrivals and departures)
Long Distance:
884 (tracks 3–18)
442 (tracks 51–54)
1281 (tracks 41–44)
308 (tracks 1+2, SZU)
Total: 2915 trains
Shunting moves
about 5000 (incl. yards)
Switches and Signals Switches: 799
dwarf Signals: 791
Main Signals: 177

Zürich HB is served by more than 2,900 trains daily. In 2004, it had an average of 340,000 passengers each day. The station is busy at all times, with trains running from 05:00 until 01:00 during the week. From Friday night to Sunday morning, trains run all day and all night as part of the ZVV Nachtnetz (night network).


The ground floor has 20 terminal tracks (tracks 3 – 18 and 51 – 54). Tracks 3 – 18 are used by trains from major areas in Switzerland and by international trains such as the EuroCity, Cisalpino, InterCityExpress and TGV. Tracks 51 – 54 are used by Zürich S-Bahn trains and extra rush hour trains via Zürich Enge and/or Zürich Wipkingen.

One level below on the southern side of the station are terminal tracks 21 and 22, used by SZU S-Bahn trains, heading west and south towards Üetliberg and the Sihl valley. On the same level on the northern side are four through tracks, 41 - 44, for local commuter trains (mostly S-trains, mostly within the canton). S-Bahn trains via Zürich Stadelhofen use these tracks. Between tracks 21–22 and 41-44, another four tracks (which will probably be numbered 31–34) are under construction.

International services

  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Basel – Amsterdam / Hannover / Hamburg / København / Berlin / Leipzig / Dresden / Praha
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Zug – Arth-Goldau – Bellinzona – Lugano – Milano
  • Template:Bahnlinie (Chur –) Zürich – Basel – Freiburg im Breisgau – Mainz – Köln – Dortmund – Bremen – Hamburg
  • Template:Bahnlinie (Chur –) Zürich – Basel – Strasbourg – Luxembourg – Bruxelles
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Sargans – Innsbruck – Salzburg - Wien - Budapest
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Winterthur – St. Gallen – Bregenz – Lindau – München
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Bern – Genève – Perpignan – Barcelona
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Sargans – Innsbruck – Graz / – Zagreb – Beograd
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Sargans – Innsbruck – Linz – Wien – Budapest
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Basel – Freiburg im Breisgau – Frankfurt am Main – Hannover – Hamburg (– Kiel)
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Basel – Freiburg im Breisgau – Frankfurt am Main – Kassel - Berlin
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich – Schaffhausen – Stuttgart (– Frankfurt am Main)
  • Template:Bahnlinie (Chur –) Zürich – Basel – Strasbourg – Paris
  • Template:Bahnlinie Zürich - Stuttgart - Frankfurt (Main) - Hamburg

Domestic long-distance traffic

S-Bahn services

Zürich HB is a nodal point where S-Bahn lines S2, S3, S5, S6, S7, S8, S9, S12, S14, S15, S16, S21 and S24, the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn (S4 and S10) and Zürich trams interconnect. Train connections to Zürich Stadelhofen, Template:Stnlnk, Template:Stnlnk and Template:Stnlnk are very frequent, and the ride takes only few minutes.

Since the commissioning of the Zürich S-Bahn in May 1990, the Hauptbahnhof has been the central node of the Zürich S-Bahn Stammnetz (core network). All of the S-Bahn lines operating radially through the station run through the «Museumstrasse station» and the Hirschengraben Tunnel connected with it.

The remaining Stammnetz lines, which run between the Lake Zürich left-bank railway line and Oerlikon via the hairpin at the Hauptbahnhof, originally used the ground level tracks inside the train shed. Following the commissioning of the «Sihlpost station» in 2003, these lines were moved to the new wing station, some of them immediately, and the remaining ones at the timetable change in December 2004. With the commissioning of the second cross-city link in 2013, all of these lines will become "real" radial lines that will not reverse direction at the Hauptbahnhof, and will therefore be moved to the «Löwenstrasse station».

Urban public transport

Around the station, the trams and trolleybuses of the Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ) provide local public transport services. The Hauptbahnhof is one of the most important nodes of the Zürich tramway network.

The main station is accessible from five tram and bus stops:

  • Sihlquai to the north, tram lines 4 and 13;
  • Bahnhofquai to the east, tram lines 4, 11, 13 and 14 and trolleybus 46;
  • Bahnhofplatz to the south, tram lines 3, 6, 10, 14 and trolleybus 31;
  • Bahnhofstrasse just south of Bahnhofplatz, tram lines 6, 7, 11 and 13;
  • Sihlpost to the south-west, tram lines 3 and 14 and trolleybus 31.

Train operations

Due to its central location in Switzerland and in Europe, the station was quickly able to establish itself as an important railway junction. Most trains running through several European countries operated through Switzerland. In addition, a majority of Swiss mainline trains travelled to or from Zürich. For the clock-face timetable introduced to Switzerland in 1982, Zürich is the "pacemaker". Delays and other disruptions at Zürich Hauptbahnhof sometimes affect the whole of Switzerland.

Long-distance trains meet in Zürich on the hour and half hour, and thus connect with each other. In cases of delays, connecting trains wait a maximum of 3 minutes beyond the scheduled departure time, except for some international trains and the late night trains. S-Bahn services do not wait for late connecting trains, but the long-distance trains - contrary to popular opinion - usually wait for delayed S-Bahn trains (also for a maximum of 3 minutes).

Station operations

Operation of the railway tracks is handled by train traffic controllers (German: Zugverkehrsleiter (ZVL)), who are based in the central signal box. Their individual workstations are divided into sectors, and include the tracks in the passenger terminal, the station throat and the access routes. Train movements are normally set automatically by a central computer, on the basis of preset routes, and with the assistance of a conflict detector (resulting in timely and trouble-free traffic). Whenever necessary, the train traffic controllers optimize train routes, so that as many trips as possible operate simultaneously. In addition, all of the approximately 5,000 shunting movements must be set manually by the train traffic controllers, so as not to affect other train movements.

The above ground terminating tracks are served by three train traffic controllers:

  • The ZVL "Mitte" is responsible for tracks 3-12 and the long-distance lines towards Thalwil (Zimmerberg Tunnel) Viaduct (Wipkingen) and the so-called "south entrance" from Altstetten.
  • The ZVL "Nord" controls the points and signals of tracks 13-18, the long-distance lines to Altstetten via the Hardbrücke station and the eastern part of the stabling area between the Langstrasse and Hardbrücke.
  • The ZVL "Süd" operates the tracks of the Hauptbahnhof's "Sihlpost"-section and the line towards Viaduct (Wipkingen).

Another ZVL is responsible for remote control of the S-Bahn. He serves the entire trunk route from Stettbach via Zürichberg Tunnel to Stadelhofen, Zürich HB and on to Hardbrücke and the right shore Lake Zürich railway from Küsnacht to Stadelhofen.

The station throat area is divided between ZVL "West" and "Vorbahnhof". The so-called "south entrance" leads most of the long distance traffic from Altstetten towards Hauptbahnhof right through the centre of the station throat. One special feature of the station throat is a level crossing with barrier, over which twelve tracks pass. It is located just east of Duttweilerbrücke. As this is an non-public access way, the barrier is usually closed.

The entrance to the Herdern maintenance facility has its own signal box, from which the stabling tracks 400, 800 and 900 are controlled. The Herdern stabling area looks towards Hardbrücke (S-Bahn tracks), over the so-called "Überwerfung Mitte" towards the station throat and a connecting track to Altstetten. In addition, the ZVL Herdern controls the former Nord signal box, which is part of an area including the field groups J (Ida) and H (Heiri), as well as access for maintenance annexe G (UAG), which is controlled by a point operator.

The train traffic control team is headed by a team leader, the so-called "station supervisor" (German: Bahnhofüberwacher or just Bue). He does not work directly on the points and signals, but is responsible primarily for making decisions to ensure connections, and about track utilization in the event of delays and disruptions. The station supervisor is also a focal point in the operations control centre for any kind of irregularity. Due to the sometimes very hectic operations, the position of station supervisor is occupied by two people during the morning and evening rush hours. Support for the station supervisor is provided by a BUe assistant, who performs mainly administrative duties. He is also responsible for updating the electronic train data with short-term changes, and supports the station supervisor in case of failure, for example by filling out the checklist, or by recording emergency operations on the panoramic wall.

In the Zürich central signal box is the "Hirzel" area, the remote control system for the Zürich HB–Thalwil–Pfäffikon SZ and Thalwil–Zug–Cham lines. Since the integration of remote train control in late 2007, this area is no longer in the control room on the 5th floor of the signal box, but on the ground floor. The remote control system is divided into a "Zimmerberg" section (Zürich Wiedikon to Oberrieden/Oberrieden Dorf), "Etzel" (Horgen bis Altendorf) and two "Zug" sections (Zug railway station and the remainder of the Stadtbahn remote control system).





Further reading



External links

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