Federal Railways posts record losses

Fewer passengers and the imposed closure of shops also led to a sharp decline in customers at stations – for example here at Bern station in June © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the Swiss Federal Railways, which reports a third fewer customers on trains and in stations in 2020 and a loss of CHF617 million ($663 million).  

This content was published on March 15, 2021 - 11:52

“[The Federal Railways] looks back on an extremely challenging year,” it said in a statementExternal link on Monday at its annual press conference. “After a good start to the year, the coronavirus pandemic hit [the company] very hard.”

An average of 843,000 passengers were transported per day last year – more than a third fewer than in 2019 (1.32 million passengers per day). Passenger kilometres fell by 40.6%: in long-distance traffic they dropped by 43.7%, and in regional traffic by 32.4%.

Demand in international passenger traffic collapsed even more: by 51.2% in passenger kilometres.

“The sharp drop was due to the measures imposed by authorities to combat the pandemic: many commuters worked from home, while leisure passengers from Switzerland and abroad also travelled significantly less because of restrictions,” the Federal Railways said.

Fewer passengers and the imposed closure of shops also led to a sharp decline in customers at stations – a third less than in the previous year overall.

Financial consequences

The economic situation is “very tense”, according to the Federal Railways, with the decline in demand having “severe financial consequences”.

Compared with the previous year there were lower passenger revenues (-28.9%), lower third-party revenues in stations (-26.8%), lower train path revenues for infrastructure (-12.1%) and less freight transport (-2.4% in freight tonne kilometres).

“During the lockdown, [the Federal Railways] waived or reduced rents and, together with the public transport industry, implemented extensive goodwill measures for travelcard customers,” it said.

Despite the loss – the largest since the Federal Railways was spun off into a public limited company – it said it intended to keep prices stable “and thus ensure the attractiveness of public transport”.

It added that "liquidity was secured at all times thanks to the government".

Cost-cutting measures

The company said it had been implementing cost-cutting measures since spring 2020, including a hiring freeze in administration.

It is also reducing flexitime and holiday credit and postponing or cancelling projects and investments. These measures have saved “hundreds of millions of Swiss francs”.

It stresses that rail services and safety have not been affected by the cost-cutting measures.

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