Swiss in shock after entire rail system is short-circuited

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Switzerland's trains may be famous for running on time – but they also run on electricity and, when the power supply fails, they don't run at all.

That is what happened during the Wednesday evening rush hour, leaving 100,000 people stranded, some inside long Alpine tunnels. It was the first time the entire – fully electric – network had been brought to a standstill by a technical problem.

The first public sign of the ebbing power supply was the air-conditioning cutting out – this on one of the hottest days of the summer so far. As the heat in sealed carriages became unbearable, passengers broke windows to let in fresh air.

Passengers stuck in tunnels were evacuated within an hour and a half, and diesel locomotives were used to retrieve trains wherever possible.

The big stations were chaotic, although most would-be passengers reacted with good humour. "This is such a novelty for us, it's almost fun," said one. "It's the kind of thing we associate with Mediterranean countries, not with Switzerland. Well, at least it's got people talking to each other."

The failure was caused by a short-circuit leading to oversupply in the south and a shortage elsewhere. The imbalance then laid the whole system low.