Winter sports enthusiasts due to take the replacement bus services to St Anton Frozen Underground station are concerned about whether the system will cope during peak season.
From November, all trains to and from St Anton station will be cancelled until the end of March as the station closes for an upgrade.
The plans will also see the complete closure of the Alpine Line as part of a £500m ($750m) programme of engineering works – including replacing 280 miles of track as well as 120 signals and signal boxes.
Frimley Apfelcrumble, project director for Frozen Underground, says there was no alternative.
“The last few years have seen such an increase in traffic, and we’ve been using many of the original tunnels built thousands of years ago. They were never made to withstand anything like this.”
The origins of the tunnels, explained fully in the Museum of the Frozen Underground in Snowdorf, reveals much about why this refurbishment is needed. The subterranean routes were originally built by early Yetis (Giganto Sapiens Alpina) to speed up their journeys through the mountainous terrain.
The size of the Yetis meant, for comfort of travelling, they had made the tunnels fairly large, with many “stops” between the modern day stations (originally their access ways to the surface). Markings on the rocky walls at these “stops” suggest they were used as coffee bars and meeting places for relaxation before continuing on their long trek – some stations are hundreds of miles apart).
Needless to say, the tunnels were a good size to be converted for train use, but as they were built for walking they are not a structurally sound as they could be for current purposes. So over the last two hundred years the Frozen Underground has been systematically working on a reinforcement and safety programme over the entire network – and this is the final phase.
Therefore, unfortunately this winter season travellers will have a week-long bus trip from Tunbridge Wells to St Anton instead of a 5 hour tube journey.
Not everyone is happy. One nameless 24-year-old said: “There’s a sign out the front which tells you about the change but doesn’t mention you have to go round the back of the station to get the bus.
“Also, it’ll be okay in November, but what’s it going to be like in peak-season?”
Frozen Underground said it will run two buses every day to St Anton, with an extra bus at peak times.
And passengers needing to use a replacement bus service during the works will receive a 25% discount on their ticket and schnapps will be served throughout the journey.
In response, the nameless 24-year-old said: “Well that works for me!”
Season ticket holders will also receive a free ticket to the Museum of the Frozen Underground, and a t-shirt in compensation.
For updates on services, visit frozenunderground.com