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TRANSPORT

Tennis star Wawrinka test-drives Uber app

A ride-sharing application for smartphones that offers an alternative to taxis is making its debut in Switzerland in Zurich with a splash.

Tennis star Wawrinka test-drives Uber app
Photo: Uber.com

Uber, a San Francisco-based company that developed the app, nabbed one of Switzerland’s top celebrities, tennis star Stanislaus Wawrinka, as its first customer on Wednesday.

The app allows customers to use mobile phones to book rides online with limousine companies and private drivers.

Uber has begun testing in Zurich its ride-share program, already available in more than 30 cities worldwide.

After convincing him to try the Uber app, the company showed on its website blog a photo of Wawrinka leaning against a Mercedes limousine with a tennis racket in hand.

The app lets customers pay by credit card, so no money is exchanged, and it incorporates a GPS that runs like a meter.

Riders pay a little extra but in return they get to ride in a limousine.

The touted advantage for limousine operators is they can maximize the use of their vehicles.

In a wrinkle designed to encourage good service — and good behaviour from customers — the app even allows drivers and passengers to rate each other.

“We certainly can’t compete with the local world-class chocolatiers, cheesemakers or mountain ranges,” the company says on its website.

“However, when it comes to travelling, we’ve got a hunch we can help the world’s most efficient transportation network become just a little more Swiss.”

Uber was founded as UberCab by three entrepreneurs, including the current CEO, Travis Kalanick, in 2009.

The company launched its mobile app a year later in San Francisco on iPhones and Android phones.

After being accused of illegal taxicab operation in San Francisco, the company in 2011 changed its name from UberCab to Uber.

The company claims it has hooked up thousands of drivers with hundreds of thousands of customers.

It expanded beyond North America to launch services in Europe, starting in Paris in December 2011.

It now also has apps for Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Lyon, Milan, Munich, Rome and Stockholm.

However, in some cities — Vancouver, Canada is one example — it has faced regulatory hurdles that have made it difficult if not impossible to operate, usually because regular taxi operators are opposed to the ride-sharing app.

It has encountered resistance in Italy and Sweden but continues to operate in those countries.

Uber suffered a blow this week when it received a “cease-and-desist” letter from the city of Los Angeles, along with two other ride-sharing app companies.

The city and one its taxi operators claims the companies are running “rogue taxis” that are “bypassing all safety regulations created to protect riders and drivers”.

Uber maintains that is simply using technology to match customers with existing services that are approved and registered.

In Zurich, the company acknowledged that its supply of cars “may be limited” during its testing phase.

“Rest assured that we’ll be adding cars every day until your private transportation experience is running as smoothly as the Swiss timepiece you’re wearing on your wrist.”

Uber also let slip that it is looking to hire a general manager for Zurich, plus a community manager for marketing, social media and support.

For more information email [email protected]

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ZURICH

Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

Switzerland’s Federal Railways (SBB) will be removing the ticket counter from nine stations in the cantons of Zurich, Vaud, Bern, Zug and Ticino

Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

The SBB made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the decision was made due to a lack of demand. 

Instead, commuters will need to buy tickets from automated machines. 

In the canton of Zurich, the ticket stations in Dietlikon, Hinwil, Kloten, Männedorf and Oberwinterthur will be closed. 

In neighbouring Zug, Cham’s ticket counter will be closed, while the Herzogenbuchsee station in Bern will also go fully automated. 

MAPS: The best commuter towns when working in Zurich

In Latin Switzerland, Pully in Vaud and Biasca in Ticino will see their ticket counters closed. 

The SBB told Swiss news outlet Watson that approximately 95 percent of ticket sales are now made via self-service machines or online. 

The advent of navigation apps has meant the need for personal advice on directions and travel has fallen, particularly in smaller areas or stations with lower traffic. 

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