‘Full refunds could be possible on seriously late services’: Swiss train boss

The head of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has suggested the company could, in future, offer customers a full refund in the event of seriously late trains.

'Full refunds could be possible on seriously late services': Swiss train boss
86 percent of Swiss trains were less than three minutes late last year. Photo: SBB

SBB CEO Andreas Meyer raised the possibility in an interview with Switzerland’s CH Media group during which he was critical of the current refund system.

At present, customers receive a maximum 10-franc refund (or 15 francs for first class passengers) if their train is over an hour late – and even that is only long-distance IC and ICN services.

In many cases, people only receive a coffee voucher.

“Sometimes I am almost ashamed,” said Meyer of the current compensation system.

He suggested that in future the SBB could offer 50 percent refunds “after a certain lateness” and even full refunds in “serious cases”.

The comments come after a slight fall in punctuality for Swiss trains last year. In 2017, 87.4 percent of trains arrived within three minutes of their scheduled arrival time, but in 2018 that dipped to 86 percent.

While these figures mean the SBB operates one of the most punctual networks in Europe, there has been an increase in customer complaints about lateness.

Meyer said the slight fall in punctuality last year could be put down to a number of factors including extensive improvement works across the rail network and the delayed roll out of the controversial new Bombardier double-decker trains.

But whether the SBB ends up offering customers full refunds remains to be seen.

The Swiss parliament has spent years trying to ensure public transport customers have access to a fair refund system. The ball is currently in the government’s court, but it remains coy when it comes to sharing details of any new rules.

Originally, the government had suggested an EU-style compensation system with passengers receiving a 25 percent refund after an hour and a 50 percent refund if a train is more than two hours late.

The Swiss government now plans to launch a consultation process this year and roll out a new refund scheme in 2022.

Read also: Switzerland's SBB sets sights on hi-tech flying taxi service


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