Feeling Unloved by Swiss Railways?
It’s been a week of shattered illusions in Happy Valley.
As if the Swiss National Bank‘s unexpected, abrupt ending of the Swiss franc 1.2 floor in January 2015 was not enough to disillusion your correspondent, now comes the humbling of yet another pillar of Swiss predictability and reliability.
I am speaking, of course, of the CFF, the Swiss national railway service.
I’ve always considered it to be a wonderful way to travel. Generally on time, to the minute. Reasonably priced (at least with a half price card or demi-tarif). Courteous staff. Pretty decent food and wine, served in proper restaurant cars. And, which other railway can claim to have the look of its station clock face copied – and royalties paid — by no less a design maven than Apple?
Imagine then your correspondent’s reaction to the news about the CFF in and around Happy Valley over the past few days.
April 25: A derailment in Daillens. Service disrupted between Lausanne and Yverdon. Resumed this week, although at reduced levels.
May 5: “Another hard blow to the CFF”, according to the RTS: Land subsidence from heavy rainfall hits the line in Paudex. Service disrupted between Vevey and Lausanne that morning. Resumed a few hours later, although with reduced service and delays of a few minutes.
May 6: 24heures.ch reports that a freight car has derailed in Denges. While the accident occurred in the freight train sorting yards, nervous travelers were nonetheless reassured by the CFF that passenger services have not been affected.
With thousands of Happy Valley residents presumably up in arms, RTS journalist Vincent Bourquin has spoken bluntly of a CFF that “doesn’t like its customers”. Even worse: the national railway company has not, in his view, shown “the slightest sign of empathy”. (Quotes translated from the original French by your correspondent.)
Meanwhile, when challenged earlier this week about the handling of the crisis, CFF boss Andreas Meyer spoke of understanding travelers’ woes, and promised compensation to those affected — although without offering any specifics. (Mr. Bourquin helpfully suggested a few options, ranging from a prolongation of rail passes, to chocolate giveaways. While your correspondent would prefer to receive a nice new watch, other ideas, dear readers, are welcome.)
And so just as your loyal correspondent was about to grab his pitchfork and torch to march upon Lausanne Central Station, a sobering piece of news appeared on the wire: The latest update regarding the rail strike in Germany. This, to recap, is a 7-day strike, nationwide. It’s the 8th strike in 10 months. Commuter services are “paralysed” according to the Financial Times. And there is no sign, at least to your correspondent’s knowledge, of any kind of national gesture in the works involving rail pass extensions, or of Milka bars being handed out to inconvenienced travelers at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof.
The bubble that is Happy Valley never ceases to amaze…
By The Happy Valley Correspondant