Sleepy passenger causes Swiss train chaos

A napping commuter passenger caused disruptions to 176 trains on Tuesday day when he pulled the emergency brake after missing his stop. 

Sleepy passenger causes Swiss train chaos
Martin Abegglen

Shortly before eight in the morning, in the middle of rush hour, the sleepy passenger woke up and realized he had missed his stop at Altstetten and was alone in the carriage.

The train was already in Schlieren station, on the outskirts of Zurich, and was on its way to serve a different line connecting the city with canton Aargau. Panicked, the man pulled the emergency brake, said Reto Kormann, a spokesperson for Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), to

As chance would have it, the dozy passenger brought the train to a halt at a critical junction where several different types of current cross, causing a short-circuit.

“A piece of cable, 200 metres long, fell to the ground,” said Kormann.

As a result, three of the four major lines connecting Zurich with Aarau and Basel were disrupted until 3pm. The fourth line only got back on track at 10pm.

In total, 176 trains were affected, causing cumulative delays of 1,300 minutes, SBB said.

The passenger’s identity has not yet been determined, although the train driver saw a door open and an individual jump out of the carriage before fleeing across the tracks, Tages Anzeiger reported. 

“The person could be prosecuted for misuse of the emergency brakes but also for disruption of railway traffic”, said another SBB spokesman, Reto Schärli, to

Statistics show it’s not uncommon for people to pull the emergency brakes unnecessarily. In 2011, there were a total of 350 such cases, a number SBB says is in line with the yearly average.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days

Snow and sub-zero temperatures over the weekend caused havoc on some train lines, mainly in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days
Snow has slowed down train traffic in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

Freezing temperatures cut off the power on some lines, disrupting train traffic in several regions.

Internationally, traffic between St. Margrethen in St.Gallen and Munich was interrupted due to heavy snowfall. EuroCity trains between Zurich and Munich were canceled.

Before it resumes normal service, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) must clear a thick layer of snow from trains and remove fallen trees from tracks, the company said on its website.

The train between Basel and Zurich airport will be canceled until Tuesday evening. 

But SBB says it will resume most of its traffic on the main lines on Monday, though at reduced frequency.

Shorter train formations and longer journeys should also be expected in the next few days.

READ MORE: Swiss railways releases new time table: Here's what changes in 2021

How can you know ahead of time about any last-minute cancellations or delays?

The timetable is also constantly updated on the SBB Mobile App. 

Any delays or last minute cancellations are indicated there in real time.

On Twitter, @RailService and @railinfo_cff provide information on possible disruptions as well.

READ MORE: MAP: Return of night trains across Europe comes a step closer