Travel news For Members

Why is there a foul odour stinking out trains in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why is there a foul odour stinking out trains in Switzerland?
Unfortunately, the new models of double-decker trains don't smell of roses. Image by Andi Graf from Pixabay

Riding Switzerland’s trains is usually not an unpleasant experience, unless you are sitting in one of the FV-Dosto trains, breathing in the smell described as a cross between excrements and rotten eggs.


The new long-distance double-decker trains designed for Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) by a Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, are sleek and modern.

But they have one major problem: as they scenically crisscross the depth and breadth of Switzerland, these trains leave behind an unmistakable stench, which follows the Dosto to all the stations on its route.

As the Blick reported, “after stinking up the platforms of Geneva and Zurich, it is now tracks 31–34 of the Löwenstrasse underground station that stink". So much so, that the SBB has installed a warning sign telling passengers it has “intensified the cleaning to eliminate the cause [of the stench] as quickly as possible”.

However, despite these efforts, “SBB trains continue to smell of faeces”, the media reports, adding that FV-Dosto double-decker trains “have been stinking for months”.


What is this smell and where does it come from?

When it was first discovered over the summer, the SBB had pinpointed the source of the stench as emanating from the toilets of the new Bombardier trains.

According to Blick, which conducted its own probe into this phenomenon, “modern systems have replaced the old bowls that simply opened onto the track. The wastewater is collected, before the solid components are separated from the liquids. Liquids are discharged after being heated and filtered. The solids are collected, before passing through a bioreactor for treatment with bacteria. And this is where the problem lies”.

While this is an excellent example of investigative journalism, this piece of information doesn’t make riding on these trains any more appealing.

As one passenger tweeted, he has to make a difficult decision each time he takes this double-decker train: whether to sit on the upper deck and experience stronger shaking, or opt for the lower level and be exposed to toilet smells.

While the SBB continues to look for solutions, saying that passengers will have to live with foul odours at least until the end of 2022, elected officials have gotten involved in this issue as well.

“We must ensure that public transport is attractive. This implies that one should not be inconvenienced by such odours”, said MP Marionna Schlatter.

However, another MP, Martin Candinas, points out that deputies should not raise such a stink.

“It is unacceptable for politicians to debate toilets”, he said. “This is the responsibility of the SBB”.

READ MORE: UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also