The coach company Flixbus has been fined by the Swiss transport authorities for allowing customers to travel cheaply within the country in violation of laws on international route operators.
On Tuesday, the Federal Office of Transport slapped FlixMobility – the German parent company of Flixbus – with a fine of CHF3,000 ($3,014). It claimed its service from Lyon in France to Constance in Germany was being used by customers to travel within Switzerland at cheap rates.
The route includes stops in Geneva, Bern and Zurich, which opened up the possibility of cut-price domestic intercity travel for CHF20. For comparison, a train ticket to travel from Geneva to Zurich costs a minimum of CHF44.50 (with a half-price rail card).
Currently, it is illegal in Switzerland for a foreign company to transport goods or passengers between locations within the country – a practice known as cabotage.
While Flixbus agreed to pay the fine, it denied that it violated the cabotage rules. The company claimed that drivers cannot prevent passengers from disembarking at a stop not indicated on their ticket, as that would amount to “coercion”. It added, that passengers boarding the bus in Switzerland are informed of the ban against getting off at a Swiss stop.
It is this kind of cooperation that probably resulted in a relatively small fine. Authorities can impose a fine of up to CHF100,000 for violation of cabotage rules. The Swiss Transport Workers Union called the fine “ridiculous” and “at most symbolic” and called on the authorities for stricter enforcement of cabotage rules.
Results of an investigation released last year confirmed that travelling on the Swiss Federal Railways is becoming more expensive than driving in Switzerland. It states that train passengers are consistently asked to pay more for travel despite negative inflation. Motorists, on the other hand, have benefited from falling petrol and auto prices, which have contributed to a declining overall cost per kilometre driven in Switzerland.
Competition from inter-city coach operators could be one option to make travel more affordable. However, such a move would require legislative steps to liberalise the transport market. Parliamentarians are expected to debate the issue this year.
swissinfo.ch and agencies