Keeping Bern mobile

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The Hess lighTram 25 bi-artics are Bern’s ‘iconic’ vehicle type, though the city is also home to similar 18-metre trolleybus and battery-electric versions. The buses have range-extender batteries and are capable of operating away from the overhead wires, as seen here as bus 50 arrives in the city centre. JONATHAN WELCH

The colour may be familiar, but the vehicle types are very different. Jonathan Welch learns how Bernmobil is approaching its drive to zero emissions

The Swiss public transport system is often admired and lauded as one far superior to our own, and possibly with some justification. At the same time, for all their differences, Swiss operators face many of the same challenges as their UK counterparts. To give a different perspective on bus operations and the move to a zero-emission fleet, I paid a visit to Städtische Verkehrsbetriebe Bern (SVB), more commonly known by its trading name of Bernmobil.

Formed in 1947 by the merger of tram and trolleybus operator Städtische Strassenbahn Bern (SSB), and bus operator Stadt-Omnibus Bern (SOB), Bernmobil can trace its ancestry much further back. As far as 1871 in fact, when a horse buses first ran between Bärengraben and Linde. Just under two decades later, 1890 witnessed the first compressed air tram making its way through Bern. Its tanks of compressed air were recharged between journeys in the old town. The Bern Tramway Company (BTG) had been formed two years prior, in 1888, and until 1902 ran between Bärengraben via the city’s railway station to the cemetery.


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