Federal Railways defend recruitment of staff from abroad
The Swiss Federal Railways say they have been compelled to recruit drivers from Germany to cope with soaring demand for both passenger and freight services.
The recruitment of 100 drivers from Germany comes a month after the Federal Railways turned down the idea of recruiting abroad. An official statement said foreigners "lacked knowledge of the rail system, the technical side and the regulations".
Spokesman, Christian Kräuchi, justified the volte-face, saying an increase in traffic made it necessary to bring in staff from abroad.
"We introduced more passenger trains at the end of May with the new timetable, and since the economy is booming we have a high demand for freight traffic.
"At present, drivers have to work longer hours, they cannot take their days off and we need to relieve that position as quickly as possible. That's why we're looking to recruit in Germany and also Italy if possible," Kräuchi said.
He added that more trains were needed to cart away thousands of tonnes of timber brought down by fierce storms last December.
Kräuchi rejected any suggestion that recruiting abroad could lead to safety problems, saying the same rules and regulations applied to all drivers. "Before being allowed to run a train, every driver has to pass a test and we will have the same criteria applied to German and Italian drivers before they will be permitted to run a Swiss locomotive."
There have been some reports that the Federal Railways were bringing back retired train drivers to ease the present situation but Kräuchi says this idea has been turned down.
"We discussed the possibility and we asked retired drivers, but they said they did not want to come back. Personally I feel it's probably better because it's a job that demands a lot. It's probably safer if we train new people or get people from other railways," he said.
Currently, the Federal Railways employs a total drivers' staff of 3,300 (2,200 passenger and 1,100 freight).
by Robert Brookes
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