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Swiss trains: should the half-fare card be abolished?

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Swiss trains: should the half-fare card be abolished?
Photo: SBB
12:03 CET+01:00
Anyone who lives in Switzerland and uses the public transport system regularly will know of the halb-tax/demi-tarif card, which, for an annual fee of 185 francs, allows the holder to buy half-price train and bus tickets.
In a country where full-fare rail tickets can be high, the half-fare subscription is well worth it, making journeys on the SBB network much more reasonably priced. No wonder some 2.5 million people in the country have one.  
 
But now customer rail organization Pro Bahn Schweiz is suggesting getting rid of the railcard in an attempt to bring down the cost of full-price tickets for everyone. 
 
Speaking to 20 Minuten, the organization's president Karin Blättler said abolishing the half-fare card would be “very welcome”.
 
The cost of “selling, marketing and renewing” half-fare subscriptions would be eliminated and the “large amount of administration costs saved could be passed on to the customer”.
 
Blättler said the abolition of the half-fare card should be accompanied by an overhaul of the country's other subscriptions – such as the annual GA/AG – and day tickets to “massively simplify the immense fare chaos”.
 
In an interview with newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Toni Häne of Swiss rail service SBB said abolishing the half-fare card in favour of cutting regular fares for everyone could be “considered” but would need the whole industry's approval.
 
But not everyone is on board with the idea. Ueli Stückelberger, director of the public transport association, told 20 Minuten he agreed full-price train fares were too high, but said the half-fare card was “too popular” to abolish. 
 
“You would take away something positive from customers. That would not be understood,” he said. 
 
And even if abolishing the card would help bring prices down across the board, there is a psychological effect to offering a 50 percent discount.
 
When Germany's Deutsche Bahn introduced a 50 percent discount card and then later reduced the discount, there was outcry, said the paper. 
 
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