Although the Vierwaldstättersee in central Switzerland is now surrounded by roads and railways, there are still journeys for which the lake steamer is the quickest and most convenient method of travel. However, it was not until 2018 that a dedicated ferry service for commuters, visitors and local people came into operation.
At the left of the entrance to the Alpnachersee – one of the inlets off the main lake – and 500m above it, is the tourist resort of the Bürgenstock, reached from the pier of Kehrsiten Bürgenstock by a funicular railway. The resort has recently seen much redevelopment and now offers a wide range of hotels, eight restaurants and bars and other facilities for tourists. There is a nine-hole golf course and two tennis courts; one covered, the other outdoors. Ramblers and cyclists can enjoy over 70km of paths that criss-cross the side of the Burgenberg. All these come with magnificent views over the lake, across to Mount Pilatus and southwards to the Alps of central Switzerland.
While the area can be reached by steamer to the pier at Kehrsiten Bürgenstock, these services cannot provide the frequent and regular service that visitors to the resort usually want. Therefore, it was decided that, for the first time in its long history, the Schifffahrts Gesellschaft des Vierwaldstätesees (SGV) should operate an hourly ferry service between Luzern and that pier. It would provide a guaranteed connection with the refurbished funicular to bring visitors to the resort within an hour of leaving the city. To provide a service of this kind, it was necessary to build a new ship. The vessel that emerged from the yard of Shiptec at Luzern is a revolutionary one, quite unlike any in service elsewhere in Switzerland or, indeed, in Europe.
Bürgenstock is a two-deck catamaran with accommodation for 300 passengers in two classes. That design was chosen as the most environmentally-friendly form, and one that would combine the maximum speed with the minimum use of fuel. It was also vital to keep running and maintenance costs as low as possible, the latter being an especially important consideration for a vessel that is in service from 06.05 to ten minutes after midnight, seven days a week, all year round.
She is propelled by 2 x 552kW diesel motors, and 2 x 180kW electric motors linked to a hydraulic drive. The electric motors are used in the bay of Luzern and are extremely quiet in operation, both internally and externally. When open water is reached, diesel power takes over, which brings a higher noise level, at least on the lower deck.
The maximum speed is 35km/hr, with very little disturbance to the water as she progresses, while on-board vibration is conspicuous by its absence. Just two crew members are carried. Dimensions of the vessel are 38m by 10.4m and her weight is 94.53 tonnes, this low figure being attained by the use of aluminium and fibreglass.