Swiss Rail Timetables on CD

Swiss Rail (SBB) offers its timetable in paper form, interactively on its website and in CD-ROM media. I have made 16 trips to Switzerland, use trains almost exclusively, and since 1996 have used the electronic timetable loaded on my personal computer to plan excursions. To extensive users of the Swiss Travel System, I highly recommend this product.

The SBB website is quite good and the information is the same as in the CD version. But Internet connections for travelers in Europe are difficult and, with its speed, user-friendliness and extra features the CD is well worth the CHF 16 ($12) cost. However, though widely available in Switzerland, the CD is not easy to obtain in the U.S. I buy mine in Switzerland or purchase it by email with a credit card from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The postage cost—CHF 9 ($6.50) to a European address is reasonable, but the CHF 41 ($29) charge to send it to the U.S. is not. A friend in Europe forwards it to me. The current edition is valid 12/2002 to 12/2003.

CD installation is rapid, trouble-free, and the instructions are in the language of your choice. All the English text associated with this product is good. You must immediately update the program by downloading the latest timetable (666kb) and, assuming you would like to access the timetables of connecting trains throughout Europe, you should download the International Update (3mb). This will give you connections as far as Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Warsaw, Budapest, Belgrade and Rome.

To use the timetable, choose a departure station, a destination station and, optionally, 'via' stations. Enter the departure date and time. You can specify which carriers you are willing to travel on (boats, buses, etc.) or just accept all possible connections. All itineraries that fit your parameters will be presented. (This is different from the online system, which shows four itineraries.) At a glance you can see the number of changes and the total travel time. Click on highlighted words to find out anything you could possibly want to know about the journey—except the price. If you are using a pass, and your trip is within Switzerland, you may not care.

Search results can be printed with a range of detail and the departure board of any station can also be printed. These printouts can be tailored to exclude times, dates, days of the week, etc., and can have little or extensive detail. They do have track numbers, but occasionally these are altered, so I always double-check the sign at the track.

After your query, click on the 'Graphics' button for a map of the route, with all the necessary stations. The map is large and legible, unlike the tiny Java map on the web site.

This is an impressive tool and an excellent value. It is worthwhile even when out of date by a year or two. The timetable changes very little year to year and you can always double-check the results online.

Ralph Walker
Via email

Backs Up Reader Recommend

I'll offer a strong "second" to subscriber M. Murphy's recommendation of Hotel Stella d'Italia. Have stayed there twice and am booked for May '03.

Right on Lago di Lugano. Lovely areas to sit/dine outside and very pretty views. Outstanding food. Rooms rather small and not for sitting, but all have balcony overlooking the lake with table and chairs. Rooms in older part a bit more desirable. Best balconies: 119, 120, 121. Very small village, no shopping, but Lugano is only 15 minutes away. Room prices, with nice breakfast buffet, around E125 ($133) are a bargain. The drive east to Lago di Como (Menaggio) is about 30 minutes.

Bill Bohnhoff
Santa Fe NM