Mountain conqueror – the Vereina Tunnel celebrates 20 years
Twenty years ago today, the first carriages rolled along the tracks through the longest tunnel in RhB’s network – the Vereina Tunnel.
Simon Rohner is head of the Vereina car transporter and is preparing for the coming season together with his team. He tells us what this means and gives us his very own tip for the 16-minute drive in the dark.
That’s difficult to say. But since I live on the other side of the tunnel and use it twice a day on the daily commute, I’ve certainly been through it a few thousand times.
Yes, the radio always has to be on of course. I usually work on my notebook or make a few calls. There is a continuous 4G network and excellent mobile phone reception throughout the tunnel. That even makes it possible for our customers to stream videos to pass the time. Some, however, like to use the trip for a short nap. And the people working on the Vereina car transporter often have to wake passengers up when they reach their destination.
Since 1 March 2014. Before that I worked for RhB in Lower Engadin. I have been closely connected with the Vereina Tunnel in various positions since it was built.
From 1 December to 30 April, the car trains run until after midnight, in other words three hours longer than in the summer. There are more shifts which go from 4:40 in the morning until 1:00 the following morning. We use additional staff and rolling stock for the peak days in the sports holidays and at the weekend and try to prepare for this with good advance planning.
On these peak days not only car transporter staff, cashiers and train drivers are on duty but also replacements from Klosters/Davos or Scuol/Zernez and external staff, such as the traffic cadets of the city of Chur and Securitas.
No, the team is the same size all year round. In summer we compensate the extra hours worked in the winter and take our holidays, mainly between May and November.
As the conditions in the tunnel are more or less the same all year round, no special technical preparations are required. Although we do change the train formations for the winter. The capacities for large lorries are reduced to make more room for cars. On peak Saturdays during the sports holidays in February, we also use a fourth, shorter car train in order to make optimum use of capacity.
On a normal day, we have 68 scheduled car trains. On a peak day, you can have anywhere up to 120 car trains running.
Ideally I would like a lovely winter with lots of snow and good winter sports conditions for our customers, which of course also has a positive knock-on effect for us. However, heavy snowfall is a particular challenge for us, especially on peak traffic days with correspondingly poor road conditions and the possibility of the Julier Pass closing.
In addition to the general increase in road traffic over the last 20 years, using the car transporter has, after initial restraint, increasingly established itself as a fast, safe and comfortable alternative to travelling over the passes, especially among the local population. There has been an increase every year, with more customers using the connection even in the summer when the Flüela Pass is open. Furthermore, guests in the neighbouring holiday regions of South Tyrol and Livigno have also started to use it more.
They should just enjoy it, arrive at their destination relaxed and look forward to probably the most beautiful valley in the world, the Engadin!
By the way: in the car train, even drivers are allowed to surf the net on a mobile phone or tablet. But if you prefer to take a nap, you should definitely set your alarm to 16 minutes, otherwise you could get a fright when the person behind you starts beeping his horn or the car transporter staff start knocking on the car window. :-)
Simon Rohner freut sich auf die kommende Hochsaison