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Local News Summary of December, 1st

  • Chaos at the SBB: Trains not expected to return to normal until Saturday
  • Baselland cantonal parliament agrees to credit security guarantee for “Campus Sport”
  • Enchanting Christmas ferry returns to Basel again

Chaos at the SBB: Trains not expected to return to normal until Saturday

The timetable of Basel's most important train station remained chaotic on Thursday morning following the derailment of a German ICE train at the SBB. The damaged carriages were still lying on the tracks as commuters headed to work, obstructing the timetable and forcing passengers to use other stations in the city. According to the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the trains will run not normally from Basel until Saturday at the earliest. The SUST investigation agency had finished their work at 9.45am. It was expected that stricken carriages could then be towed away. The other parts of the derailed ICE train had already been removed with the help of German specialists. However, operations manager Martin Spichale, said that hydraulic cylinders, normally used for such clearing tasks, could not be used after this accident due to a lack of space. Instead, a special crane was brought on site – which was also not as heavy for the train tracks. The two carriages were put back back onto to the tracks during Thursday. It remained unclear yesterday when they would be towed away. The SUST confirmed it would begin its investigation of the accident area as soon as the carriages were removed.

Damage to track points still uncertain

The total damage caused to the infrastructure could only be assessed once this part of the operation was completed. SBB maintenance manager, Edgar Renz, said they could already see if track points have been damaged but it was not clear whether they could be repaired. Mr Renz said that, if they have to be replaced, this could take time because every part has to be custom-built.By Thursday afternoon, the exact amount of damage had yet to be confirmed. It will take some time to analyse the situation, according to the media website of the SBB. However, the financial cost could run into millions. SBB spokesperson Franziska Frey on Thursday said that the cause of the accident also remains uclear. According to Mr Renz, the affected track infrastructure had only been partially replaced in September. Three carriages in the middle of the ICE train had derailed, among them the restaurant car. Ms Frey said did not want to voice any speculations during the ongoing investigation. The SBB has also not confirmed how long the delays and cancellations of trains at SBB would go on for. On Thursday morning, around half of the platforms remained closed, but some were re-opened during the day. On their website, the SBB announced there would be further delays and obstructions at least until Saturday morning.

Train timetable in Basel is still chaotic

Some train connections yesterday were running via detours or with additional changes, which led to longer journey times despites these measures. The SBB suggested that passengers travelling to destinations in Switzerland and Germany destinations should consult the online timetable or to keep up to date on the website www.railinfo.ch. All city railway trains were running normally again by Wednesday evening, followed by the S6 to the Badischer Bahnhof on Thursday morning. A few IC and IR trains to Zurich and Olten had also started to run again. Travellers to Germany also used the trams between the two train stations (SBB and Germany Railway Station). The German Railway Services has announced that they do not expect any delays or cancellations. International TGV/TER trains to France also ran normally from SBB.

Tracks still obstructed

Three carriages of an ICE train from Hamburg to Basel had derailed on Wednesday shortly before 5pm. Around 500 passengers had been evacuated safely after the accident and nobody was injured. One of the carriages had thrown a signal mast onto the overhead lines, which had resulted in a short circuit. Consequently, the whole SBB station was without power for two hours. A wrongly parked vehicle by Basel paramedics further obstructed the handling of mass of commuters stranded at the SBB: The car was standing across several tram lines, which is why certain trams could not reach the train station for about half an hour. In the chaos, the driver had not seen the tram tracks, the authorities said. The Basel Transport Services (BVB) expanded their extra trams (for the football match between the FC Basel and the FC Lucerne) to accommodate further passengers. Following the train accident, the football trams continued their journey from Basel to Pratteln, where train passengers could switch to other trains. According to a SBB spokesperson, staff are not always spontaneously available.

Baselland cantonal parliament agrees to credit security guarantee for “Campus Sport”

The cantonal parliament of Baselland has unanimously agreed to a credit security guarantee of 22 million Swiss francs for the new “Campus Sport” of the University of Basel in Münchenstein (BL). The campus is to open in 2022. The new construction will be built at the St. Jakob site by the University of Basel. Thanks to the credit security granted by both Baselland and (although still subject to debate) Basel-Stadt, the university can acquire funds under optimal conditions. The cantonal parliament also requests a more independent construction management monitoring for the realisation of the project, however. According to the parliament’s agreement, the university has to elect a constructor fiduciary on equal terms. The finance commission, which had raised this point, does not think that the partnership of the project is therefore influenced. The Federal Government is also a partner of the 51-million-franc project and will cover 20 per cent of the expenses. “Campus Sport” of the university Department for Sports, Exercise, and Health (DSBG) is planned to open in the first quarter of 2021. Lectures and research are currently taking place in the St. Jakobshalle, but large events disturb education on a regular basis. The new construction therefore is not only planned for spatial reasons but also to centralise the premises in an area where there are plenty of sports facilities available.

Enchanting Christmas ferry returns to Basel again

After a break last year, the “Vogel Gryff” ferry turns into the “Wiehnachtsfähri” (Christmas ferry) again. Every evening, the lights go on and make the ferry shine brightly. The Christmas ferry looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The Klingental ferry lights up every evening in shining splendour – a boat made out of light that crosses the Rhine. 2017 is the Christmas ferry’s third year, an event that does not happen every year. During the last pre-Christmas season, the ferry remained undecorated. There were different reasons for this decision. “Sometimes, a break can be a good thing,” Pro Innerstadt Basel manager, Mathias F. Böhm, said. Together with ferry man Alex and Christmas-lights specialist Markus Grollimund Jeanneret (“Santa Klaus”), the Pro Innerstadt association of Basel had started the Christmas ferry tradition in 2014.

Unique and beautiful

But it is clear that the effort is worth the result. “It is about the experience,” Mr Böhm said. An enchanting view is guaranteed: Not only as a ferry passenger but also as a passer-by, people are mesmerised by the light ferry crossing the Rhine. The project is part of the “Basler Weihnacht” motto and an important puzzle piece of Christmas in Basel. Yet there are no plans for further ferries to be decorated around Christmas. “Basel’s Christmas atmosphere draws its fascination from the unique,” Mathias F. Böhm says. The one shining ferry crossing the Rhine at dawn is a singular sight. This uniqueness adds to the popularity of the ferry. Apart from Baslers, various magazines and partners of the “Basler Weihnacht” often ask for photo opportunities. “I am even convinced that the ferry offers the best Christmas photos,” Mathias F. Böhm said, with a smile. He might well be right.

Exclusive ferry journey

The “Vogel Gryff” ferry is outside of the Christmas perimeter – there are no special Christmas markets or other offers at Kaserne or in the St. Johann quarter. Yet despite or perhaps because of this, the feedback is unanimously positive. “Passengers and spectators are very happy,” ferry man Alex states. Maybe also because there was no Christmas ferry last year. For the last week, the ferry lights have been lit up every day from 4.30pm onwards. If anyone wants to enjoy an exclusive ferry journey across the Rhine, they can rent the ferry during this "most beautiful time of the year". The Christmas mood is guaranteed.