Swiss price watchdog calls for reduction in train ticket prices

The price watchdog wants to see a 2% reduction in ticket prices once track fees for rail companies drop starting next year. © Keystone / Walter Bieri

With track fees for rail companies set to drop, savings should be passed on to customers, Stefan Meierhans told the weekly NZZ am Sonntag. The call comes on the heels of revelations that two state-owned rail firms wrongly claimed millions in subsidies.

This content was published on March 1, 2020 - 16:15
NZZ am Sonntag/gw

Switzerland’s official price watchdog said that prices for train and bus tickets should be reduced by around 2% in winter 2020/2021. That’s when the Federal Council is expected to reduce track fees by a total of CHF90 million ($93 million).

Since rail companies will have to pay less for use of the track network, the savings should be passed on to passengers, Meierhans said.

At the time the decision on the track fees was made, the Federal Transport Office had also concluded that customers should see lower fares as a result, the NZZ am Sonntag notesExternal link.

However, the Swisspass alliance, which is responsible for setting ticket prices, told the German-language weekly that neither a price reduction nor an increase was in the works for December 2020. Instead savings from the track fee changes would appear in special measures, such as discounts on supersaver tickets.

In regional transport, the savings would be transferred to the cantons, which would in turn benefit taxpayers, the alliance said.

Meierhans, however, pointed out that every time track fees have gone up, ticket prices have also increased – hence, the opposite should apply.

There are other reasons why passengers ought to pay less, the watchdog added. This week it was revealed that the Swiss Federal Railways and regional transport operator BLS, which is mainly owned by canton Bern, had wrongly claimed state subsidies and together must now pay back CHF50 million. 

+ Transport operators told to pay back millions in state subsidies

For Meierhans, the scandal calls into question the ticket price increase of 2014.

Public transport is already heavily financed through the public purse. Moreover, not all transport associations have passed on a recent reduction in the value added tax (VAT) to customers, the watchdog said.   

The fight against climate change would also justify a reduction in prices. The government and several political parties want to promote the use of public transport, yet in recent years it has become more expensive to take the train or bus than the car, Meierhans said.

The industry decision on ticket prices for next year will be made in April.

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