Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
In recent months Swiss federal railway operator SBB has come under fire for defective aircon, late-running services and trains skipping stations.
So how do readers think it can all be improved?
The good news is that 80 percent of respondents to our survey said public transport in Switzerland was good (12 percent), very good (44 percent) or exceptional (24 percent).
Readers cited the “seamless” integration of train, tram and bus services and its availability everywhere, even in the smallest village. The quality of second-class seats, the punctuality and reliability of services and the cleanliness of trains were also praised.
So good and comprehensive is the service that, as reader Micah Wilhelm put it, “it is possible for the most part to live in Switzerland without owning a car or having a drivers’ licence”.
However, there are some downsides. Readers complained of overcrowded services, broken air conditioning, high prices and – a major gripe – too many people smoking on station platforms.
“I love Switzerland but it is without a doubt the worst thing about the country,” said reader Kieran O’Malley on Facebook.
So how would customers like to improve things?
First, ban those smokers. “It is actually pretty shameful that a country that is so dedicated to health and fitness and hiking is a country full of so many smokers. It’s time to get rid of smoking in all public waiting areas,” said Sarah Urban-Jackson from Zurich, one of many readers who called for a ban.
In fact, SBB is gradually tackling the issue. Though there’s no outright ban, the company is this summer introducing airport-style designated smoking areas in train stations, with smoking and vaping banned outside those areas.
The new system was launched at Bern station in June and will be rolled out to 2,000 stations by the middle of each year. However, there are no plans to fine people who don’t obey the new rules.
To tackle overcrowding, reader Dominik Estland in Zurich advises SBB to “use the appropriate length of trains for the amount of people expected to be on the train”, while Alexa Holgate suggests having “more frequent trains and SBB officers enforcing rules about personal belongings taking up seats on crowded trains”.
Though trains are generally punctual, reader Victoria Wirz bemoaned the tight connections on many services, and asked for at least ten minutes between services. “It is horribly stressful to have just 4-5 minutes, you must run with luggage, it’s terrible,” she said.
Though trains are quite punctual, there can be very little time between connections. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Speaking of luggage, Sarah Urban-Jackson said transport companies should keep up progress on replacing older trains and trams with the newer models that offer step-free access. “It pains me to see elderly people and moms with clunky prams struggling on and off the trams because of the steps.”
Readers also had plenty of suggestions about how to reduce costs for travellers, with many saying services are too expensive.
Suggestions included offering a discounted GA/AG (SBB’s annual train pass) to those on low incomes, reducing zone upgrade charges for season pass holders, and lowering prices for tourists.
“The fact that the half tax [SBB card] is only viable if you live in Switzerland,” is a real downside for visitors, who “get crucified on fares,” said Wayne Mondesir on Facebook.
Reader Claire Johnson suggested SBB pass some of its profits back to customers with “better offers”.
Another popular suggestion by readers was to offer free wi-fi on trains (PostBus services already have it and SBB is trialling it at the moment), while reader Mark Summers said SBB’s app needed improving.
“Improve the app so that all bookings, reservations etc can be made through it. It is half finished and lacks many of the basic features of the old app. It is now a few years old and it should have been fully functional when launched, not launched in stages,” he said.
Not everything is within SBB’s power to change, however.
“Let people exit before trying to board,” said reader Yvonne Flavin on Facebook. “And can we abolish poor quality earbuds? We don’t all share the same musical tastes!”
Lastly, reader Holly Sneddon pleaded: “Can people learn how to queue?” Sorry Holly, but that one isn’t a quick fix…