On 19 September 2002, the Swiss private railway Mittelthurgaubahn AG (MThB), which had run into severe financial debts, signed a contract with the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB/CFF/FFS), according to which the entire workforce and most assets of the MThB and its daughter company Lokoop AG will be taken over by the SBB and by THURBO AG. THURBO had originally been set up as a joint venture between SBB and MThB and will in the future be owned to 90% by the SBB and to 10% directly by the canton of Thurgau. The MThB company (owned to 38% by the Swiss Confederation and to 22.4% by the canton of Thurgau) will then be able to pay off its debts and after that be dissolved.
In the last decade, the MThB had embarked on an ambitious course of expansion, which unfortunately in the end turned out to overstretch the company's financial resources. Since 1994, the MThB had taken up passenger operations in neighbouring parts of Germany; in 1997, it won a bid to operate passenger services on the SBB-owned line Schaffhausen - Romanshorn for ten years. It had also expanded into freight traffic outside its own network, mainly through its daughter company Lokoop AG, originally jointly owned with the Südostbahn (SOB) (which has meanwhile merged with BT).
The MThB had already curbed its expansive course which had led it into confrontation with the SBB by setting up the THURBO AG joint venture, which even regardless of the most recent developments would have taken over MThB's passenger operations by December 2002 - and in which, because of its financial situation, MThB's share would have eventually been reduced to a vestigial remnant of 0.2% (and even without these problems, to no more than 10%). Now THURBO will also take over the previously MThB-owned railway infrastructure of the line Kreuzlingen-Wil and the depot at Weinfelden, as well as a part of the MThB and Lokoop workforce and a part of the MThB rolling stock needed for passenger operations. The SBB will take over the rest of the workforce and most of the rolling stock, as well as all freight operations and the complete Lokoop rolling stock consisting of second-hand locomotives from former East Germany. (Lokoop also operates six locomotives of class Re 486 which are essentially identical to DB Cargo class 145, but these are directly leased by MThB, and it appears not quite clear yet what will happen with these engines.)
Some further reading (in German):
Photo by Stéphane Kolly
Text by Sven Manias