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Monday, 20 May 2013

Liechtenstein

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.

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