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Why Switzerland has the most expensive public transport in the world

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Why Switzerland has the most expensive public transport in the world
Why Switzerland's public transport is among the most expensive. Image by Andi Graf from Pixabay

If you want to use Switzerland's public transport, you’ll have to be prepared to shell out quite a bit of money – more than in many other countries. Here’s why.


A new study has found that, although the Swiss system is among the best in the world, it also costs most among the 99 countries analysed.

Switzerland’s public transport – and particularly its rail system - is often hailed as one of the world’s best, so perhaps it comes as little surprise that punctuality and high-quality service come at a price.

For instance, a single journey on a bus or a tram costs on average 3.55 francs.

Four of the 10 most expensive cities in the world for public transport tickets are also in Switzerland: Zurich, where a single-use ticket costs on average 4.35 francs; Lausanne (3.65 francs); Bern 3.60 francs. and in Basel 3.55 francs. 

In April, the industry organisation for public transport, Alliance SwissPass, announced that – for the first time since 2016 – Switzerland’s public transport would be raising its prices from December 2023.

The organisation cited greater supply, increased costs for wages, maintenance or energy, and inflation as reasons behind the decision to increase fares.

But why is Switzerland’s public transport so expensive to begin with?

Higher cost of living

According to Alliance SwissPass, the higher prices for public transport in Switzerland can be linked to the higher cost of living in the country and hence higher salaries to workers.

With an average monthly gross income of 6,555 francs, the Swiss are Europe’s highest earners - the main reason why so many foreigners flock to this country.

Only around one in 10 Swiss residents are considered ‘low wage earners’, which means they take home less than two thirds of the median wage each month (4,443 francs).

While this means that many Swiss should be able to afford the high ticket prices, for the public transport companies this also means that staff have to be compensated accordingly and this can be costly.

READ MORE: 4 things to consider when buying a travel card in Switzerland


Improvements push up prices

But high wages aren’t the only reason public transport cost is increasing.

Earlier this year, we wrote about how Switzerland’s population is set to reach the 9 million mark sooner than originally thought. With the increasing number of people living in Switzerland, there is of course an impact on infrastructure such as public transport. 

READ MORE: Trains in Switzerland are excellent, so why are cars still king?

The country’s public transport system has, however, implemented a fair share of changes to meet the increased travel demand. This also means higher costs for travellers.

Swiss rail operator SBB is to update its timetable at the end of 2023 which will see additional stops in the Deutschschweiz (German-speaking Switzerland) to meet demand in some towns and more seats on long-haul train routes in the region.

Meanwhile, Ticino will see more trains next year while the provider has numerous construction projects planned throughout the Romandy region over the next few years, and as you guessed it, renovations and constructions are costing public transport companies a fair chunk of money.

READ MORE: How Switzerland's train services and timetables will change next year


According to 20min, passengers are having to cover an ever-increasing part of these repair and improvement costs, particularly as things have become more expensive due to inflation. 

It seems punctuality, reliability and seamless connections all have their price.


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