BLS was due to begin operating Bern - Biel and Bern - Burgdorf - Olten services in December, but these will be now operated by incumbent Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), which launched an appeal in July 2018 against BAV’s decision to award the concession for the two services to BLS.

SBB claimed that the current Swiss inter-city system is based on a single concession and the change must be legally clarified. The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that a final decision on which railway will run the services cannot be taken until SBB’s appeal has been settled.

BLS has accepted the Court’s decision. The company says that in view of the short period remaining before the start of the 2020 timetable in December this year, it would only be possible to launch its new services in December 2020 at the earliest, even if the decision had gone in its favour.

BLS has ordered eight Mutz double-deck EMUs from Stadler to operate these services and is currently examining various options for getting these trains into passenger service as quickly as possible.

SBB has said that it is not opposed to competition but envisages far-reaching consequences for the Swiss public transport system if the intercity network is opened to competition. BLS says new entrants are disadvantaged under the current long-distance concessioning system and has therefore welcomed the BAV’s decision to review the procurement process.