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Market liberalisation Government against allowing foreign inter-city bus operators

German operator Flixbus was fined as passengers were using its international route for cheap transport within Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Swiss cabinet is not in favour of liberalising the Swiss transport market by allowing foreign coach firms to offer inter-city services within Switzerland. 

In a report released on Thursday, the seven-member body said it is not keen on going beyond the current legal framework, as it deems the quality of existing international transport options in Switzerland as satisfactory. This means that the current ban on cabotage – the right of foreign companies to transport goods or passengers between locations within the country – will continue. 

"Indeed, such liberalisation would jeopardise the gains of the Swiss public transport system," stated the report. 

Earlier this year, German company Flixbus was fined CHF3,000 ($3,066) as passengers were using its coaches on the Lyon to Constance route for cut-price inter-city travel within Switzerland. The buses stop at Geneva, Bern and Zurich. For comparison, a ticket on the Swiss Federal Railways between Geneva and Zurich costs CHF44.50 while a Flixbus ticket from Lyon to Constance is a mere CHF20. 

Instead of lifting the cabotage ban, the cabinet proposes improving infrastructure at bus stations and developing minimum requirements for domestic bus operators. However, there is a glimmer of hope that buses could give trains a run for their money in the future. The cabinet report mentions integrating private bus operators into the public transport system through measures like making the half fair rail card and annual rail pass valid on them as well. 

More rail competition?

The report indicates that the cabinet is considering the possibility of partial liberalisation of international rail transport. Currently, services are only possible if an agreement is reached between a Swiss company and a foreign one. 

There are plans to allow foreign rail companies to offer international passenger services on their own initiative. Cabotage will also be allowed in this case. The government hopes that this kind of liberalisation would result in more options for passengers and increase competition. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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