For my trip to Ambri-Piotta watching local HC Ambri-Piotta at their home ice, Gotthard Arena, I took a seven hour rail trip from Cologne by rail. With only one transfer in Basel, the first class ride was absolutely convenient – and very cheap. The return ticket for the whole distance was less than 80 Euro (with a fixed train connection). On the Swiss side, I rode the Südostbahn Stadler FLIRT train for the first time, which is serving the connection between Basel (Swiss Station) and Locarno, named IR 26 or Treno Gottardo. Here is my experience of my legs between Basel and Airolo.
Südostbahn IR 26 Treno Gottardo – The Connection
The IR 26 is connecting Basel with Locarno. At the time of writing (in March 2022), weekdays feature six trips from Basel to Locarno and seven in the opposite direction, starting at the morning hours and departing every two hours. They are driven by Swiss Südostbahn, which is fully integrated into the Swiss SBB tariff and ticketing. During weekends, there is only one direct connection Northbound per day, which was not the case during my trip in December 2021.
There is also the connection IR 46, which is linking Zurich with Locarno. It is also referred to as Treno Gottardo and serviced by the Swiss Südostbahn.
Südostbahn IR 26 Treno Gottardo – Stadler FLIRT Traverso
The Swiss Südostbahn (which simply translates to “South East Rail”) uses an eight piece Stadler Flirt motor tram train for their service on the Treno Gottardo (“Gotthard train”). The exact model description is SOB RABe 526. Definitely, the most obvious catch of this train from outside is the copper, red and black design of the wagons. The train design is also used for other routes used by the company. The total length of the train is roughly 150 meters, the four engined double axes have a total power of 2000kW. The maximum operational speed is 160 km/h. Stadler Rail is a Swiss company from Bussnang.
First Class Area
The total seating capacity of the Stadler FLIRT as used by Südostbahn is roughly 360, it differs slightly by train. One end of the tram engine train features the first class, which is in a 2-1 seat configuration. One characteristic (regardless of the class) is that there are slight ramps in the train. There is a combination of seats facing each other and individual rows. Power outlets are provided at any seat (Swiss outlet only). What I really liked about the single seats is that they have some sort of “box” right next to the seat, which may serve as a storage for smaller hand luggage, e.g. a notebook bag.
The overhead spaces for luggage are rather small, but there is some space at the wardrobes, between seats and racks. The wardrobes are also a quite nice design element. Below the luggage racks, there are also digital reservation displays. Large screens, which are nicely spread through the cabin, inform you about the trip, the next stop and connections.
Second Class Area
Second Class seating is coming in a 2-2 configuration, there is significantly less privacy between two adjacent seats, compared to first class. Similar to first class, many seats facing each other come with a tiny table, which may bother if you want to work. There are power outlets as well, you may have to share them, though.
Südostbahn IR 26 Treno Gottardo – Service
The total travel time between Basel and Locarno is about three hours – and most people won’t go the full distance. Thus, expectedly, the train does not feature a bistro or restaurant section. However, there is a really nice vending area with a coffee and a snack machine. I really loved that offer. The area also features the possibility to separate waste.
There are accessible and normal toilets available in the train. The train staff was very helpful as well. As said, Südostbahn is operating with SBB ticketing, so that it was also easy to use my international German rail ticket. There is no WiFi on the train.
Südostbahn IR 26 Treno Gottardo Stadler FLIRT Traverso – My View
I really liked the trip with the very modern Stadler FLIRT Traverso rail. Especially the first class is really comfortable. WiFi might be a nice plus, but likely very difficult to implement due to the Swiss geographic circumstances. The three hour ride is relaxing and scenic – so it is definitely a good travel option, if you are coming from the North and head to the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
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