The Simplon car train between Italy and Switzerland is a unique and convenient mode of transportation that allows you to bring your own car with you as you travel by train. This is especially useful if you are planning a road trip and don’t want to worry about driving long distances or dealing with traffic. This post shares some history, where it is exactly and our personal experience using the car train with our own vehicle. Read on to know more!
Simplon Car Train History
Over a century has passed since the Simplon Car Train was first inaugurated in 1906. Since then, both passenger and freight trains use the tunnel, since it’s a crucial transportation link in the area through the Alps. The train is owned by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), which as you may know is Switzerland’s national railroad company.
As well as the Simplon Car Train using the tunnel, the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express are two other train services that use the same tunnel. They of course take a much longer route and tunnel for their further journeys around Switzerland.
Up to 60 automobiles can fit on the train as per 2022, which we didn’t actually experience during our trip on the train was around max 20 cars during a non busy moment.
Where Is The Simplon Car Train?
Between Brig, Switzerland and Iselle di Trasquera, Italy, there is this passenger and car transportation service known as the Simplon Car Train, which we’ve wanted to highlight in this blogpost based on our experience. Both travellers to the Swiss Alps, Italian Alps and locals often take the route when commuting between the two nations. Since it’s an easy and cheap mode of transport through the mountains!
The Simplon Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the Swiss Alps, which is at about 20 km in length. So a railway here passing through is pretty efficient! It takes less than 30 minutes for one way on the train, which travels through the tunnel.
Because of its reputation for dependability and punctuality, the Simplon Car Train is a practical and stress-free method to travel through the Swiss Alps. Read on to see our personal experience with our car!
Our Car Train Experience
So our experience is based on a 1 way journey from Iselle di Trasquera to Brig. This was one way since we were on our way to Zermatt for a long weekend, and would be coming back a different way home.
Departure From Iselle di Trasquera
Turning up to the train entrance, it was super quiet and we didn’t see a single staff member. Everything was sign posted so we knew it was the right place. So we simply drove along the queueing area where there were already about 10 cars in front of us, so we knew we simply had to then wait. There were about 10 minutes to wait until the train would arrive and depart, so it was a matter waiting in our cars with the engine off.
Once the train arrived, there seemed to be just 1 staff member guiding the cars off the train and out to the road area. So it all seemed pretty easy. We had our 1 way ticket ready to show, which we purchased online in advance, but they did not check this when entering the train. On the pre-booked ticket, it was also clear what to expect and the rules of the train journey with your car.
Train Ride Time
Driving on to the train was super easy, since you just follow everyone else and along the ramp to a position where you then stop. The main thing was to of course not stop your car in between carriages, so you had to make sure not to rush and leave space in front of you if there was a gap.
Once on and stopped, we turned off the car again and in no time it was starting to move into the tunnel. It was a really smooth journey overall, and felt like it didn’t take long at all. The tunnel had a few lights, but it was mostly dark. We saw the car behind had their lights on inside the whole time, presumably to read or do something useful while waiting.
You have to follow the rules for safely, such as staying inside your own car and not getting out. This was best anyway since there are no facilities on the train journey, so you have no need to get out. It is also really open, with no windows or doors on the train, just a simple metal train below your car with a roof on support above.
Arriving in Brig
In no time we were out of the tunnel and arriving in Brig. It was nice to arrive in the daylight, as you are now on the other side of the mountains, which had a lot of snow during our visit. Once the train had stopped, we were off the train as easily as when we got on. There was one other staff member now guiding us off, but it was super easy to just follow the route and car in front.
At this point, we were off the train and now queueing to leave the supervised area. There was a gate with two lanes so that cars could show their ticket (if pre-bought) or to pay for their journey at the cashier. This seemed to be what most people did, which we saw many paying simply in cash. But they also allowed cards. For our turn we simply handed over the printed pre-bought ticket and she checked it and sent us on. Easy peasy!
Tip: When we bought our train ticket online, it’s actually valid for 1 year minus 1 day. So if we had issues catching the train on the day of our journey to Zermatt, we could simply take the next one or any other the day later etc. So the pre-booked ticket was very flexible.
The fun thing about the journey was that we left Italy speaking Italian, and then arrived at the cashier in Brig who spoke German to us, since we were now in the Valais canton of Switzerland after all. We didn’t think of this and surprised us on arrival!
Our journey on the Simplon Car Train super easy, efficient and definitely recommended for passing through the Alps to Italy if you are thinking of this route. It was good for our car, and we saw also many larger cars and vans using the same service, so its not limited to cars only. Check the rules on their site beforehand for your travel plans of course.
- Make sure to read the rules for your own vehicle before arriving
- Turn your car engine off when on board the train
- Have cash or your card ready for payment in Brig, but paying in advance is just as easy online
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