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Public transport aims to be more punctual

Taxpayers should be able to know if they are getting their money's worth from regional transport Keystone

In a country where legend has it you can set your watch based on when a train arrives, Switzerland’s regional transport services will be evaluated with a new quality measurement system being set up by the Federal Office of Transport.

Customers react quickly to delays, breakdowns and a lack of information according to the office. “The quality of services is a very important aspect of travel for passengers,” its deputy director, Pierre-André Meyrat, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

The transport office wants to measure the punctuality of regional train and bus lines, along with maintenance levels, cleanliness and client information, with the aim of helping companies improve their services and setting minimum standards.

The results would be entered into a national database accessible to the federal and cantonal authorities as well as the transport companies. “It’s the only way of ensuring transparency and that everyone plays by the same rules,” said Meyrat.

The system would be introduced by the end of 2015. What would happen to companies that fail to meet the standards, which are still being discussed, is still not clear.    

The federal and cantonal authorities will also have a better idea if the CHF900 million ($1 billion) invested annually in regional transport is spent wisely. “It’s perfectly normal for taxpayers to know if they are getting value for money,” added Meyrat.

Quality control was included in the last revision of the country’s rail transport legislation in 2009.

The measurement system is being drawn up by the transport office in collaboration with the cantons and transport companies, and will be tested in a few cantons to begin with.

According to Meyrat, most of the cantons consider the project appropriate and feasible, although some are concerned about the potential costs.

The companies themselves have mixed feelings about the proposal. “There is no opposition to measurements and standards, but it shouldn’t lead to the wrong expectations,” Ueli Stückelberger, head of the Public Transport Association, told the NZZ am Sonntag.

He warned that focusing on punctuality for example could in the worst case mean that trains would no longer wait for passengers arriving on delayed services.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR