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BLS-Gruppe, BLS Lötschbergbahn, Bern-Lötschberg-Simplonbahn

BLS, or as their full name is, Berner Alpenbahn Gesellschaft Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon, is one of the "big" rail companies of Switzerland. It is privately owned, but the state SBB has a minority stake in the company. It operates trains on almost all normal gauge and normal electricity rail lines in the country, even visiting Germany close to Basel, but their "home ground" is the Lötschbergbahn route from Bern to Thun and Spiez close to Interlaken, up the valley to Kandersteg and then through the world famous Lötschberg line to Goppenstein, down to Visp and Brig in the next valley and further through the Simplonpass to Italy, Domodossola, where it connects to the Italian line to Milano. The Lötschberg line was opened in 1913 and it was a world sensation. For example, trains make full turns inside a mountain and pass one and the same lake three times at different elevations while climbing up the Lötschberg.

In 2007 BLS got in full speed a new and almost as sensational line: a new "flatland" line right under the Lötschberg route. High speed trains can now pass right under the Alps between Bern and Brig along the new route, at speeds up to 260 km/h.

Key services of the BLS group are: 1) they run the majority of the local commuter train services ("S-Bahn") of the Bern area, 2) they run a successful cars-on-train ("Rollende Landstrasse") service every 15-30 minutes through the mountain between Goppenstein and Kandersteg (and during the summer from Domodossola to Kandersteg) and 3) they run a big and lively cargo business in co-operation with the German DB Cargo/Railion/DB Schenker from Germany to Italy, both along the Lötschberg route and also along the Gotthard route. Although the state SBB is a part owner and has placed many of its own Re 465 locomotives in the BLS blue house colours and rolling the BLS services, BLS and SBB have also been bitter rivals for years. In 2001-02 it silenced at least to a temporary truce: BLS stopped operating express trains and express train coaches (e.g. between Basel and Brig or Italy) and handed over all their long distance coaches to SBB. SBB on the other hand retracted from the Bern area S-Bahn traffic and handed over that business to BLS as a monopoly. SBB also handed over all of its Swiss Express trains, including all EW III type coaches and a number of matching Re 4/4 II locomotives. These were all renovated, repainted and are now in BLS´ regional services, e.g. on lines Bern-Interlaken and Bern-Neuchâtel.

A number of other companies have been merged into the BLS group, most notably and recently the RM, Regionalbahn Mittelland. The merger of RM and BLS in 2006, together with the new logo (BLS adopted the old logo of RM) and new trains and livery have created a totally new BLS company, which has an almost monopoly position in the regional traffic around Bern and also a very strong position in cargo traffic. But many other famous Swiss train companies are nowadays also a part of the BLS group after numerous mergers. Famous names and acronyms include the EB (Emmentalbahn), LHB (Langenthal-Huttwil-Bahn), EBT (Emmental-Burgdorf-Thun-Bahn), VHB (Vereinte Huttwil-Bahnen), SMB (Solothurn-Münster-Bahn) and BN (Chemin de Fer Berne-Neuchâtel).

These pictures still mostly portray the "old" BLS, but newer pictures will be added.
















Old history - RM, Regionalbahn Mittelland before their merger with the BLS



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Mr. Ilkka Siissalo
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Last updated 20.2.09