During the day trains depart Basel SBB station for Luzern at 04 mins past each hour and at 17 mins past each hour.
The trains which leave at 17 mins past each hour are the IR trains which terminate at Luzern, so they will stand out on the departure screens.
They're twelve minutes slower than the other trains from Basel to Luzern, because they call at more stations, so when booking tickets in advance online, they're often the cheaper option.
The trains which usually depart from Basel at 04 mins past each hour are a mix of services, heading to different destinations beyond Luzern.
No matter the destination or the type of train service, the trains which leave at 04 mins past each hour, are faster, they only make one station call at Olten when travelling from Basel to Luzern.
If you depart Basel in even hours, this faster train will also be an IR service, but the train won't be operated by SBB, instead you will be traveling on a train operated by SOB - but it makes no difference to the ticketing.
In most other hours during the day, the faster service will be an IC train heading to Chiasso, Locarno or Lugano; the tilting ICN trains are used for most of these IC departures.
However, the 11:04 and 15:04 departures will be EC trains heading to Milano; in particular try to avoid targeting the 11:04 departure, it will be busier than the IC trains and can be delayed, as it will have travelled to Basel from Frankfurt.
All of the other trains on this route commence their journeys at Basel SBB station, so finding available seats on these trains is very rarely a problem.
2 - x trains per hour
Book early and save: Yes*
Online bookings open: up to 2 months ahead of the travel date.
*If you book Supersaver tickets - see our Swiss Tickets guide for advice on how to book these tickets.
You may need to search through the departures to find these 'Supersaver' tickets using the ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ button. So try and be flexible with your departure and arrival times.
Though a disadvantage of the Supersaver tickets is that on this route with its frequent trains, they can only be used on the specific departure you select when making a booking.
Also on this route, the IR trains tend to be at least a couple of francs cheaper than the IC trains; and the faster IR trains match the journey times of the IC trains.
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Making onward connections in Luzern:
If you will travelling from Basel to Engelberg, the optimum connection is to take the faster trains which leave at 04 mins past the hour; these trains have a 5 min connection at Luzern station into the express ZB trains to Engelberg.
The trains which leave at 04 mins past the hour have a 7 min connection into a ZB train heading to Giswil, will call at Alpnachstad, for a connection into the PilatusBahn railway.
However, the trains which leave Basel at 04 mins past each hour, are scheduled to arrive in Luzern only one minute before the Luzern-Interlaken Express ZB trains are scheduled to depart.
And making a one minute connection is ambitious, even in Switzerland!
Take the trains which leave Basel at 17 mins past each hour and you will have around 35 mins to connect into these trains.
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