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There is a village in Austria which has its own metro line


That’s right, there is a remote alpine village that has its own subway line. It’s in Austria and its name is Serfaus. Pretty fascinating considering the place has a population of just over one thousand people!

Serfaus

Serfaus is a mountainside village, located in the valley of the River Inn, in the Eastern Alps. It’s in the federal state of Tyrol (German: Tirol), near the tripoint at which the borders of Austria, Switzerland and Italy meet.

The location of Serfaus within Austria. Base map: Google Maps
View of the village | Image credit: Shredd0r at German Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0

The village of Serfaus has a population of 1,127 and is quite remote, at least by European standards: the nearest major city, Innsbruck (pop: 130,000) is one and a half hours away by car. The country’s capital, Vienna is a 570 km (355 mi) drive away.

The place itself is a typical ski resort. There are more than 50 hotels in the settlement, which means there is a hotel for every 20 inhabitants there.  The neighbouring ski areas cover 190 km of pistes and 70 ski-lifts.

Let’s get onto our main focus, the Underground line. It’s quite fascinating if you think about it; why on earth would a remote alpine village with only a couple of roads and a small population need a metro line?

The Metro Line

The entrance of a station on the Serfaus metro line | Image credit: Dmitry A. Mottl under CC BY-SA 3.0

The metro/subway/underground line is called the ‘Dorfbahn’ by the locals, which translates to Serfaus Village Railway. It’s 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) in length, making it the second-shortest metro line in the whole world, based on our research. (The shortest we found is a 570 meter long underground funicular in Istanbul called the Tünel.)

The subway of Serfaus and a metro map we made for it. The line runs beneath the main street of the village.

The line is considered a full-fledged metro as it runs completely underground and its stations are marked with “U”-signs, which is short for the German phrase “U-Bahn” or “Untergrundbahn” literally translating to “Underground railway”.

The “U”-sign at the “Parkplatz” station | Image credit: Basotxerri under CC BY-SA 4.0

Facts about the ‘Dorfbahn’:

  • It opened in 1985
  • The line has 4 stations: Seilbahn (cable car) – Zentrum (village centre) – Kirche (church) – Parkplatz (parking lot)
  • There is only one train operating on a shuttle basis
  • This single train sits on air cushions and is hauled by a funicular system
  • The tunnel has a rectangular cross-section with a width of about 3 meters (10 feet)
  • The train has a capacity of 270 passengers which is quite a lot if you consider the village’s population
Inside one of the passenger cars | Image credit: Studienreise Fiss-Serfaus-Ladis under CC BY 2.0

The reason for the line’s construction is related to the settlement’s ski resort status. In the winter, the village sees a huge temporary population increase due to the presence of skiers. Most of these skiers arrive by car resulting in the need for several car parks (parking lots). The tiny settlement’s road infrastructure wouldn’t be able to cope with the massive influx of cars and coaches, so the decision to build large parking lots outside the village and have everybody get to the hotels and ski lifts via public transport seemed reasonable. Due to the extreme amount of snow in the winter, a tramline on the surface was not a feasible option. The underground line that was built instead allowed the village to become a car-free zone with nothing disrupting the pedestrian traffic above.

Further facts

Naturally, the Serfaus metro has the lowest number of stations of any metro system in the world. It also makes Serfaus the record holder for the subway network length/population metric. Below, you can see a table comparing it to the London Underground and the NYC subway.

Dorfbahn 
Serfaus
London 
Underground*
NYC 
Subway*
Network (Route) Length1.3 km
402 km394 km
Stations4270
424
Length (m)/Population1.150.0450.050
Density
(Length (km)/City area (km2))
0.020.256**0.500

*: A large percentage of these systems are on the surface

**: Greater London used for area

Do you know of any other metro lines or systems we should cover? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends.

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