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Bend 10 is the most difficult one for buses.

The other 24 hairpins are just as tight, but none are as steep as bend 10. Martin Schlepp knows what he is talking about. The 55-year-old dispatcher at the transport company mbs Bus GmbH from Schruns in Austria’s state of Vorarlberg was a bus driver himself for many years and knows the Silvretta High Alpine Road like the back of his hand. We accompany him on Line 85 up to Silvretta Lake in a Citaro Ü. “What is so treacherous about the bends on this special road is not so much that they are tight but that they drop off sharply towards the middle,” says Schlepp. That carries the danger, especially for buses with a low floor or long overhang, that they will run aground on the skids of the front or rear overhang – and will be unable to drive any further.

The Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü taking the Silvretta High Alpine Road.

Using every millimetre of road.

“It is not so long ago that a coach coming down ran aground at the front and back simultaneously on bend 10. The wheels hung in the air and that was that,” recounts Schlepp. The fire service had to lift the coach up and support it with joists to set it free. The fact that such stories are not mere folklore is clearly apparent from the centimetre-deep marks that the skids of numerous buses have scored in the tarred surface of every single hairpin bend. To all bus drivers who have not yet been on the Silvretta, Martin Schlepp advises: “You must really drive every bend right on the outside. Use every millimetre of road; otherwise, you will get stuck.” He then circles the Citaro Ü majestically through the next bend, whereby at the front no hand would fit between the bumper and the stone edge of the bend.

Steep curves with the Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü: Anyone who does not drive right on the outside of the superelevated hairpin bends runs the risk of running aground.

Spectacular views of the valley.

With every bend that our bus twists its way uphill, more and more spectacular views of the valley are revealed. Far below us, the village of Partenen can just be made out with the toll station, which we passed barely 10 minutes ago. Between bends 22 and 23, you would love to make the driver stop so as to be able to enjoy the view of the tightly twisting strip of the steep road below us for a little bit longer. Yet there is a timetable to keep to. The drive from the toll station uphill to the Bielerhöhe Pass and Silvretta Lake takes 18 minutes.

Spectacular views of the valley from the Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü.

Huge diggers dug out the route.

Silvretta Lake, on the border between the Austrian states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol, is the actual reason why the Silvretta High Alpine Road exists at all. Silvretta Lake is a reservoir that enables electricity to be generated when needed irrespective of the weather and time of year. Although Illwerke started constructing the dam back in 1938, they only widened the cattle tracks in the Tyrolean Paznaun valley to make a passable construction road in 1947; however, there was no link to the village of Partenen in the west for a long time. Only in 1951 did huge diggers work downwards metre by metre from the dam wall and dig out the spectacular route through the steep rock slope using their enormous scoops. Three years later, on 23 June 1954, the through road from Partenen to Galtür was opened to traffic. To this day, the Silvretta High Alpine Road is still a private toll road owned by Illwerke and only open in the summer months from the end of May to the end of October, depending on the weather.

The Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü on the Silvretta High Alpine Road.

Getting off at Silvretta Lake.

Having arrived at the highest point of the route, the Bielerhöhe Pass at Silvretta Lake, all the passengers are able to get out. Not all the bends have been overcome yet: around half of the 22.3 kilometre route still stretches ahead of us. But for Martin Schlepp and his Citaro Ü, this is the tour’s turning point. His line only goes as far as the Tyrolean state border, which runs along the bank of Silvretta Lake. Anyone wanting to travel on to Galtür and Ischgl from here needs to change, although not in terms of bus type. The service bus operated by the Tyrolean bus company Paznauntaler, which runs the line from here, is also a Citaro Ü.

Bielerhöhe Pass at Silvretta Lake. All the passengers of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü are able to get out.

Relaxed ride down the valley.

Stefan Siegele, nephew of the company founder and owner Wilhelm Siegele, gives us a friendly welcome and takes us with him on a virtually relaxed second half of the tour through the gently sloping Vermuntbach valley. Shortly after setting off at the Bielerhöhe Pass, the downhill route initially appears to be just as spectacular and full of bends on the Tyrolean side as it was going up on the Vorarlberg side. Yet that comes to an end after just four curves – the valley opens up wide, giving a view of a long section of road that stretches north-eastwards like a piece of string. The Citaro glides softly down the valley, passing mountain pastures, small lakes, cows wearing bells and grazing horses.

Relaxed ride down the valley in the Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü.

Such mountain routes take it out of the material.

Stefan Siegele is quite right that there are not quite as many slopes and only a few hairpins to overcome on “his” side of the Silvretta High Alpine Road. The 28-year-old company successor, who – whenever time allows – helps out in the company’s garage, knows what it means to drive on the most demanding routes every day. “Mountain routes like the Silvretta High Alpine Road take it out of the material,” he confirms. Starting with higher tyre wear through to the chassis, engine and brakes, which always have to perform to extraordinary levels in these mountain regions. However, just like his Montafon colleague from mbs Bus GmbH, Siegele is unable to observe more accidental damage on the mountain trips. “Good drivers,” he explains concisely but aptly, and includes himself with a wink.

The Mercedes-Benz Citaro Ü in a bend: 34 hairpins characterise the Silvretta High Alpine Road. The lines from Vorarlberg and Tyrol meet at Silvretta Lake.

Facts about the road.

  • Road name: Silvretta High Alpine Road
  • Road number: 188
  • Partenen-Galtür route: 22.3 kilometres
  • Number of hairpins: 34
  • Max. gradient: 12 per cent
  • Altitude: 980 metres over 13.4 kilometres
The route along the Silvretta High Alpine Road from Partenen to Galtür.

Video.

Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

Product may vary after press date on 07.08.2019.

1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

4 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO₂-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Eine EG-Typgenehmigung und Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

6 Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.