The collapse in the number of commuters and other passengers on Swiss trains and buses due to the pandemic is likely to leave a big hole in the finances of public transport companies.
The Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung newspapers reported on Sunday that Alliance SwissPass, the national public transport organisation, expects the number of yearly national train passes to fall by 6% and half-price annual passes to drop by 1% by the end of the year. This should result in a financial loss of CHF119 million for passes alone.
If this is added to the fall in local passes and individual train and bus tickets, SwissPass expects an overall loss of CHF1.5-1.8 billion in turnover for 2020.
Despite pupils returning to school as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, trains and buses remain only half full, transport companies say.
Passenger numbers have increased very gradually, and currently stand at around 55% of normal capacity in regional trains and 45% on intercity trains.
At the height of the pandemic, passenger volume dropped by 90%.
Post Bus – the yellow buses seen on many Swiss roads – also said that passenger numbers were well down compared with before the coronavirus crisis, but were slowly picking up. There was also an 80-90% drop in passenger numbers at Post Bus during March and April, the company added. Now the buses are about half full.
On Monday, train company BLS announced that it had transported about 60% fewer passengers than normal since the start of the lockdown. It predicts a loss of CHF40 million on its regional lines this year.
Next Wednesday, the Swiss government is expected to discuss a project to compensate public transport companies. A parliamentary transport committee will then consider the issue in order to finalise plans before autumn.