Swiss railways boss sees faint light at end of coronavirus tunnel

Andreas Meyer speaking in Bern on March 10 Keystone

The outgoing head of the Swiss Federal Railways says the coronavirus crisis could lead to a change in the travel habits of the Swiss. Andreas Meyer, who leaves the job on Tuesday, hopes people will realise that alternatives exist to help alleviate packed rush-hour trains. 

This content was published on March 31, 2020 - 09:29
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“During the crisis, citizens, companies and education centres have tested teleworking, and it’s not out of the question – I hope – that there will be lasting traces of it,” Andreas Meyer said in an interview with Le Temps. “This could, for example, be beneficial for a better distribution of travel between peak and off-peak times.” 

Meyer, 58, explained that in response to the crisis, which he described in another interview with Blick as a “nightmare”, the Federal Railways had reduced its services by around 25% in three stages and the number of passengers has fallen by up to 90%, but the financial losses could not yet be quantified.  

He warned in Le Temps that the hardest thing would be to restart once the crisis is over. “This will take time,” he said, as several projects have had to be interrupted to focus on priority maintenance work, which will have an impact on the schedule. 

Pointing to the Ceneri Base Tunnel and Bombardier double-decker trains due to enter service in December, Meyer noted it would be a “big challenge” to keep on schedule. 

He hoped, however, that people would now realise how many good options existed to avoid crowded trains at rush hour. 

“You could get to work one or two hours later, for example, Or a high school could from now on offer certain services digitally.” 

Legacy 

Looking back at his 13 years in charge, Meyer cited successes such as the 50% increase in passenger traffic, the development of the real estate sector, and the restructuring of the pension fund and goods transport branch. 

However, he recognised that improvements were needed regarding punctuality. The problems “have been clearly identified and solutions are being implemented”, he said. 

As for the criticism from staff and trade unions for having lost contact with them, he believes that “these feelings are linked to the digitisation of the company” and the establishment of a new dynamic. 

“We were not always good at explaining to our staff what we were doing,” he admitted. 

Meyer officially hands over to Vincent Ducrot, 57, on Wednesday.


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