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The importance of an integrated Swiss public transport network

Posted: 11 November 2013 | Ueli Stückelberger, Director, Swiss Association of Public Transport | No comments yet

The story of public transport in Switzerland is an impressively successful one: while passenger journeys have increased by over 30% since 2001, the rise in the number of passenger kilometres has been even higher at almost 40%. At the same time, transport companies have massively increased their workforce productivity in recent years. For example, in the period from 1998 to 2010, the number of public transport employees fell by 10%, while passenger and goods traffic capacity grew by more than 12%. This means that Swiss public transport achieved a 5% increase in employee productivity every year.

The picture is similar when looking at the ratio between the public funds expended (subsidy payments) and the public transport services rendered. The confederation, cantons and communes (and thus directly the taxpayers) invest approximately 8 billion Swiss francs annually (around CHF 1,000 per head) in public transport and get more services from year-toyear in return for their subsidy payments.

The story of public transport in Switzerland is an impressively successful one: while passenger journeys have increased by over 30% since 2001, the rise in the number of passenger kilometres has been even higher at almost 40%. At the same time, transport companies have massively increased their workforce productivity in recent years. For example, in the period from 1998 to 2010, the number of public transport employees fell by 10%, while passenger and goods traffic capacity grew by more than 12%. This means that Swiss public transport achieved a 5% increase in employee productivity every year.The picture is similar when looking at the ratio between the public funds expended (subsidy payments) and the public transport services rendered. The confederation, cantons and communes (and thus directly the taxpayers) invest approximately 8 billion Swiss francs annually (around CHF 1,000 per head) in public transport and get more services from year-toyear in return for their subsidy payments.

The story of public transport in Switzerland is an impressively successful one: while passenger journeys have increased by over 30% since 2001, the rise in the number of passenger kilometres has been even higher at almost 40%. At the same time, transport companies have massively increased their workforce productivity in recent years. For example, in the period from 1998 to 2010, the number of public transport employees fell by 10%, while passenger and goods traffic capacity grew by more than 12%. This means that Swiss public transport achieved a 5% increase in employee productivity every year.

The picture is similar when looking at the ratio between the public funds expended (subsidy payments) and the public transport services rendered. The confederation, cantons and communes (and thus directly the taxpayers) invest approximately 8 billion Swiss francs annually (around CHF 1,000 per head) in public transport and get more services from year-toyear in return for their subsidy payments.

In this context, the Swiss public transport system always means a unique combination of long-distance, urban and tourist traffic. Its success factors are easy to define:

● Coverage is nationwide, even in the most remote valleys and regions
● End-to-end tickets and customer-oriented offers, such as the GA and half-fare travel cards, ensure great convenience
● The Swiss public transport system is open: a ticket from A to B is valid on all trains, irrespective of train type and time of day
● The integrated, regular-interval timetable creates an end-to-end transport chain encompassing all means of transport (rail, bus, ship and cableway)
● New stops, line upgrades – in towns and conurbations as well as in rural areas – and more frequent services reflect the steadily growing demand for mobility.

The last aforementioned point in particular refers to local traffic which plays a very important role in the entire Swiss public transport network. This is because the long-distance and regional traffic trains, which are occupied to an increasing extent, are directly dependent on local traffic: not only does it bring passengers to the station within the towns, it also provides for the local distribution of travellers on arrival. This is particularly apparent in the growth rates of the individual public transport types. Most passenger journeys are made by bus, while the increasing importance of the tram over the trolleybus can be seen both in the number of pass enger journeys and in the number of kilometres travelled.

A logical consequence of this is that the local traffic figures are showing steady growth and the resulting challenges have driven innovation (not only in Switzerland). Ultra-modern trams and buses with numerous comfort factors such as air conditioning or real-time passenger information are almost taken for granted now; at the same time, the urban tram and bus networks continue to grow.

Possibly the most important reason for the steady growth of local traffic is the end-to-end transport chain in the Swiss public transport network made possible by the so-called ‘direct service’. Nearly 250 transport companies in all public transport categories throughout Switzerland ensure the validity of a ticket irrespective of the transport company, timetable and train number.

The enormous importance of urban traffic – and, due to the continuous transport chain, of public transport in general – can also be seen in leisure traffic. Combined offers tend to be the rule rather than the exception – the ‘integrated thinking’ in the preparation of offers is also noticeable in this area. For instance, the people of Zurich take it for granted to set off from the city centre on the suburban train and to change directly to the cableway in Flums, all with the same ticket: from the city straight to the ski slopes.

This also applies to numerous shopping centres in Switzerland – although built to some extent in conurbations, they are linked directly to the public transport network via suburban train or tram stops.

The optimally integrated Swiss public transport network is set to become even more convenient. Following the policy decision taken by the sector to introduce an electronic public transport card, all travel cards valid throughout Switzerland (i.e. the GA and half-fare travel cards) are to be replaced by an electronic chip card from 2015. Other travel-related offers are planned in conjunction with this new card and the details are currently being worked out. I look forward to this milestone which, like everything in the Swiss public transport network, encompasses both long-distance and urban traffic.

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