Monday, 20 May 2013


The Principality of Liechtenstein is one of just two doubly-landlocked nations in the world - that is, bordered only by landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan).  It occupies an area of around 160 square kilometres in the Alps, bordered to the west and south by Switzerland, to the north and east by Austria.

Liechtenstein has a network of 15 bus routes, branded as "Liechtenstein Bus" (website in German only).

The Liechtenstein Bus network is home to around 40 vehicles, which wear a lime green livery.  Most are operated by a subsidiary of the Swiss PostBus operation, but there are one or two exceptions.  The vehicle fleet is very modern - page 17 of Liechtenstein Bus' 2012 annual report (PDF) gives the average age of the fleet as less than 3 years, with the oldest vehicle dating from 2003.

When I visited Liechtenstein in May 2011, this minibus was operating route 22, serving communities high up on the mountainside overlooking the capital, Vaduz.  The roads served preclude the use of larger buses.  Certain journeys on this route are provided by taxis which must be pre-booked.

I understand the minibus has been replaced with a new vehicle since my visit.

Route 22 connects at Triesenberg with route 21.  This climbs from Vaduz to the ski resort of Malbun, 1,600 metres above sea level.  By mid-May, the ski season is over but there is still snow on the peaks overlooking the village.

The Rhine forms Liechtenstein's western border with Switzerland.  The largest settlements, including the capital Vaduz, are situated on the valley floor.  A number of local bus routes link these settlements, with routes 11, 12, 13 and 14 forming a key "spine" through the principality and providing links to rail stations across the border in Switzerland and Austria.  These routes use a variety of vehicle types.

I photographed this three-axle single-decker in Vaduz on its way to Sargans, over the border in Switzerland, in 2011. 


Route 12 extends out of Liechtenstein at both ends.  From Sargans it crosses into Liechtenstein, but ends up back in Switzerland to terminate at Buchs railway station.

This image shows an articulated bus leaving Buchs on a journey which will take it into Liechtenstein then back into Switzerland around 40 minutes later.

The Alps form a dramatic backdrop to this image, of a standard bio-gas single decker at Buchs railway station.  It is not running the full length of route 12, as it will terminate within Liechtenstein at Balzers.

Route 14 links Vaduz with the Austrian town of Feldkirch.  This image shows a standard single-decker in Vaduz.
Articulated buses also operate at times on route 14.  These images were taken in Feldkirch.


So, Liechtenstein's buses also operate into Switzerland and Austria, but do any of them operate in all three countries in a single journey?  The answer is yes.

Route 13 starts at Feldkirch in Austria, passes through Liechtenstein then crosses into Switzerland to terminate at Buchs.  Three countries in a journey taking just 40 minutes!  These images were taken in Austria, of a Liechtenstein bus destined for Switzerland.

Adding to the variety of Liechtenstein's buses are four double-deckers.  These generally seem to work routes 11, 12, 13 and 14.  At least two of the double-deckers carry commercial advertising livery, such as this one.


During the evenings and at weekends, services are less extensive.  Route 14 doesn't operate, while route 13 generally limits itself to just two countries, running only from Feldkirch to the Liechtenstein town of Schaan.  At these times, I found standard single-deckers at work on route 13.

Route 11 also doesn't limit itself to Liechtenstein.  At its southern end, most journeys cross into Switzerland, to terminate at Trübbach.  At its northern end, most journeys finish within Liechtenstein.  However, at certain times of day, route 11 extends further north to Feldkirch bringing it into Austria.  So, as with route 13, some journeys on route 11 operate in three countries.  The image below shows a double-decker doing just that - the image was taken in Austria, the bus is from Liechtenstein and its destination is Switzerland.

There is a third route, the 36E, which operates in all three countries.  This service comprises just a handful of journeys at commuting times from Gisingen (Austria) into Liechtenstein, with a couple of journeys extending to Trübbach (Switzerland).

As well as the vehicles illustrated here, a pair of hybrid-powered buses has entered service in Liechtenstein.  Around a third of the rest of the fleet is powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).

Fares on Liechtenstein Bus services are based on zones.  A single-journey ticket is valid for a set period of time within the zone(s) for which it is valid, but it allows unlimited travel within that time.  Interchange is therefore permitted.  Bicycles are carried (for which a further fare is charged), subject to space being available.

Liechtenstein uses the Swiss Franc as its currency, and fares are stated in Swiss Francs.  However, Austria is in the Euro zone.  Liechtenstein Bus accept Euros as well as Swiss Francs.

Liechtenstein is on the railway system, although its service is limited.  The line from Feldkirch to Buchs passes through the principality.  The ÖBB "RailJet" service passes through every two hours on its way from Zürich to Innsbrück, Salzburg and Vienna, but it doesn't stop within Liechtenstein.  A limited service of local trains between Buchs and Feldkirch, operated by ÖBB, calls at Schaan-Vaduz and three other stations within the principality.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Feldkirch, Austria

The mediaeval town of Feldkirch is the westernmost town in Austria.  At around 450 metres above sea level, the town lies close to the borders with Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  With a population of around 32,000, Feldkirch is one of the main towns in the Vorarlberg region.

Feldkirch has a network of "StadtBus" (town bus) services.  These are operated by a private company under contract to the Vorarlberg VerkehrsVerbund (VVV, website in German), which co-ordinates transport across the Vorarlberg region and in neighbouring Liechtenstein.  Stadtbus was established in 1993.  A very modern fleet of 3-door single-deckers operates most of Feldkirch's StadtBus services.


One StadtBus route is operated by minibuses. 

Bus routes heading out of Feldkirch into the surrounding parts of the Vorarlberg region operate under the LandBus Oberes Rheintal (CountryBus Higher Rhine Valley) brand.  The livery is a paler shade of yellow than that used for the StadtBus services.  Several private companies operate these services under contract to VVV.


The background to this image shows Feldkirch's Katzenturm, a tower built as part of the town's fortifications in the early 16th Century, as well as snow-capped mountains on the Austria-Liechtenstein border.

As well as standard single-deckers, articulated buses operate on the LandBus services.

Cross-border connections from Feldkirch into Liechtenstein are provided by Liechtenstein Bus (website in German only).

Route 14 operates generally hourly between Feldkirch railway station and the Liechtenstein capital, Vaduz, on Mondays to Fridays.  It does not run in the evenings or at weekends.

Liechtenstein Bus route 13 is the main link into the principality from Feldkirch railway station.  It operates half-hourly, seven days a week from Feldkirch to Schaan (and continues on Mondays to Saturdays into Switzerland, to terminate at Buchs).  Route 13 does not serve Vaduz, but connections to Vaduz can be made at Schaan.

As well as standard single deckers, articulated single-deckers and double-deckers also appear on the services from Liechtenstein into Feldkirch.

I've written a separate post describing Liechtenstein's transport system in more detail - click here to read it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Strasbourg, France

The city of Strasbourg is situated in France's Alsace region.  It is the official seat of the European Parliament, although much of the European Union's business is done in Brussels.  The River Rhine, which flows to the east of Strasbourg, forms the border between France and Germany.  Strasbourg was itself annexed by Germany in 1870 until the end of the First World War, and occupied again by Germany during World War 2.

Like many cities, Strasbourg developed a tram system in the 19th Century, but later abandoned it.  Strasbourg's last tram ran in 1960.  By the 1980s, however, the growth in motor traffic was causing congestion and pollution problems in the city centre.  Trams returned, with the first section of a new system opening in 1994.  

With the reintroduction of trams, motor traffic has been restrained in the city centre.  Parts of central Strasbourg are pedestrianised, with restrictions on traffic elsewhere in the city centre.




To cater for motorists visiting Strasbourg from further afield, a number of Park & Ride sites have been built at tram stops away from the centre.

Since its inauguration, the new system has expanded and now comprises 6 lines.  Five lines meet at the Homme de Fer stop, where the image below was taken.

A short section of the tram system runs in tunnel.  This takes trams beneath Strasbourg's railway station.  There is a tram stop underground at the station while more recently, another line has been extended to an above-ground terminus outside the station.

Each December, Strasbourg is home a large Christmas market attracting large numbers of visitors.  In this image, one of the newer trams is passing one of the market sites.

Although most of the trams carry fleet livery of white, green and beige, at least one wears this blue-based scheme proclaiming Strasbourg's status as "European capital".

Further extensions to the tram system are planned, including one which will take trams across the Rhine into Germany.  

Strasbourg's tram network is complemented by a number of bus routes.  Some are operated by standard, two-door single-deck buses:

On other services, four-door articulated buses operate:

The newest buses, which are fuelled by compressed natural gas, carry a white-based livery:

Further bus routes operate in suburban areas, connecting with tram services at designated interchange points.  One of these routes extends to the town of Kehl, on the other side of the Rhine and thus in Germany.  A single fare system applies, with single (and return) tickets permitting interchange where necessary.  Single-journey tickets can be bought in packs of 10 or 30 at a discount, as well as individually.  There is also a 24-hour ticket (valid for 24 hours from the time it is first validated).  A "24h Trio" ticket, valid for 24 hours for up to 3 people travelling together is partcularly good value - at the time of writing, this costs just €5.70.

Strasbourg's public transport system is co-ordinated by Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS), website (in French) here.

Bus services into Strasbourg from the surrounding region are provided by Compagnie des Transports du Bas-Rhin (CTBR), website in French only.  These operate under the "Réseau67" (Network67) banner, 67 being the number of the "département" covering this area.  CTBR is a joint venture established at the end of 2008, in which CTS is a majority partner.  The CTBR buses I found in Strasbourg were three-axle, two-door vehicles.

Fares on Réseau67 are very simple - at the time of writing, a single journey costs €2, irrespective of distance travelled.  A slightly higher fare of €2.70 allows transfer between CTBR buses and the Strasbourg city services provided by CTS.

Finally, my most recent visit to Strasbourg, in April 2013, coincided with an event at the Zenith exhibition centre on the western edge of the city.  A shuttle bus was operating between the central station and Zenith, with articulated vehicles.