Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A new funicular for Zermatt

After 32 years the Sunnegga funicular in Zermatt is to undergo a complete refit. By early summer 2013, you will be able to glide up to Sunnegga on new tracks aboard an ultramodern railway. Carrying capacity is to be increased, but there is also a focus on greater comfort for passengers. Entirely new equipment will be installed in the existing tunnel. The necessary structural modifications will be made this summer as well as during the regular autumn break in operations. During an eight-week period in spring 2013, the electromechanical equipment, tracks and rolling stock will be completely replaced. A total investment of about 12 million Swiss francs is planned.
The refurbishment promises a tangible improvement in passenger comfort: the sprung undercarriage and sound-proofed interior will make for a quiet journey. LED lighting will create a pleasant ambience. Passengers will have more room, with the space available for each seat increasing from 0.17 to 0.21m2. The seating capacity of the trains will rise from 170 to 200, which equates to 2570 passengers an hour. To make this possible, the trains will be longer: 30 metres, with three coaches, each of four compartments. The greater length means the floor of the upper compartment will come to a stop level with the station exit. The speed of travel will increase from the present 10m/sec (36km/h) to 12m/sec (43.2km/h). The folding front door will give easier access for goods transport.
The end of the winter season on 22 April 2013 sees the start of eight weeks of intensive work (using a multiple shift system) on all fronts. The aim is to ensure the new funicular is ready for handover and can start operations when the summer season opens on 15 June 2013. Generally speaking, the work will be spread over three seasons, occupying the normal inspection and maintenance periods, in order not to interrupt operations on Sunnegga. Only the spring maintenance period will be extended, by two weeks.
If everything goes according to plan, the opening of the new funicular will take place on Saturday, 15 June 2013! Zermatt Bergbahnen AG is looking forward to the next 30 years and to carrying another 30 million or more passengers on a state-of-the-art funicular.
The Sunnegga area was opened up in 1942 with the installation of a ski and walking lift, which was replaced in 1946 by a chair lift. In the 1970s, with capacity bottlenecks an increasingly frequent problem, it was decided to build a funicular railway. After four years’ construction and a total investment of CHF 26.93 million, it was opened on 28 November 1980. The funicular was recognized far beyond the borders of Switzerland as a genuine innovation in tourist transport systems and soon became a popular attraction. On 3 March 1982, after only 15 months’ operation, the railway was able to celebrate carrying its millionth passenger. By the time of the merger in 2002, the number of passengers had surpassed 17 million. Since then, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG has carried a further 14,129,218 passengers on the Sunnegga funicular, so there is no doubt that it has earned an overhaul! Starting in the winter of 1985/86, the Swiss Federal Office of Transport allowed driverless operation at a reduced speed (5m/sec) and from May 1996 onwards, at the full speed of 10m/sec.

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