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Swiss lose rail crown to the Japanese

The Swiss like to use their trains to get around the country Keystone Archive

The Swiss are no longer world champions when it comes to hopping on the train, after being edged by the Japanese.

They travelled 1,751 kilometres on average in 2003 – down from 2,077km the previous year – while the Japanese covered 1,891km.

Switzerland, however, remains home to Europe’s biggest rail travellers, ahead of Belarus, France, Ukraine, Russia and Austria, according to the International Union of Railways (UIC).

Bosnia Herzegovina is the country where people are the least likely to take the train, with journeys totalling just 14km per person on average.

The Swiss are also second in the rankings behind the Japanese when it comes to the number of trains they catch.

They clocked up an average 37 rail journeys during the year, compared with 68 in Japan. Switzerland finished ahead of Denmark and Luxembourg (27 trips), Austria and Germany.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Greeks, Turks, Albanians and Serbs opt for rail only once a year. But they still do better than the Bosnians, who averaged less than one trip per person in 2003.

According to the UIC, Switzerland’s strong performance in the rankings was down to regular services and the high level of comfort on trains.

More passengers

The Swiss results were based on data supplied by the Swiss Federal Railways, the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Railway Company and Cisalpino, which runs trains between Switzerland and Italy.

But they do not take into account the many other privately owned railway services to be found all over the country.

The Federal Railways is hoping to attract more passengers. Late last year, the company launched an ambitious revision of its timetable, coupled with improvements to its main lines.

Travel time has now been cut between most urban centres, and trains are running more frequently on most routes.

But the country’s rail system has experienced some teething troubles. On February 7 much of the network ground to a halt for hours after a computer failure.

The Federal Railways announced on Wednesday a series of measures to counter a similar breakdown.

This includes providing more back-up systems and improving information for passengers, many of whom were left without news of what was happening during the February breakdown.

swissinfo with agencies

The number of kilometres used by the UIC to compile statistics come only from companies who are members of the union.

These are usually national rail networks or state-owned companies.

Its Swiss members are the Federal Railways, the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Railway Company and Cisalpino.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR