Andreas Meyer, the head of Swiss Rail, told the newspaper Le Matin Dimanche that Swiss Rail ticket prices should remain stable in the future.
He said prices could even go down in order to compete with road travel. “Car makers want to make road journeys cheaper…. This is why we are working to avoid any price increases on the main lines between now and 2020.”
These comments will come as a relief to rail users. At the end of 2016, the operator increased prices.
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Meyer thinks there will be big changes in road transport. For example he reckons driverless cars might halve the per-kilometre cost of road travel for both freight and passengers. In response to this threat Swiss Rail has come up with a plan to cut costs by CHF 1.2 billion by 2020.
In addition he pointed out the economic challenge of low passenger numbers on regional and inter-city trains. Fill rates are barely 20% on regional trains and around 30% on inter-city routes.
He thinks encouraging flexible working hours would help to even out passenger numbers. This would reduce crowding at peak times and improve load rates at off-peak times.
Over the years road travel has become increasingly cheaper than train travel.
Many Swiss rail travelers complain of high ticket prices, however Swiss Rail is caught between a rock and a hard place. Cutting ticket prices might make a lot of sense if the operator made juicy profits. Unfortunately it doesn’t and is heavily supported by taxpayers. In 2016 the federal and cantonal governments gave Swiss Rail nearly CHF 2.5 billion1, or 27% of it’s income, to keep it afloat. Lowering ticket prices would ultimately transfer money from the pocket of every taxpayer into the pockets of those who use the train network.
Mr Meyer has a tough job ahead of him.