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Rail passengers face the last puff

No smoking will save cleaning costs on Swiss trains

(Keystone)

Smoke will no longer get in your eyes on trains from Sunday when the Swiss Federal Railways introduced its new timetable.

Public transport authorities have ordered a general smoking ban, which will also include enclosed spaces such as waiting rooms and ticket offices at railway stations.

Those who insist on smoking on trains will face a penalty of SFr25 ($19).

The smoking ban on trains comes six months after the Swiss umbrella organisation, the Public Transport Union, announced the move, saying it had the support of all of its members, including – most importantly – the Swiss Federal Railways.

Smoking has not been allowed on buses and trams for many years, but the Federal Railways has been a hold out, with up to a third of seats on its trains designated as smoking.

Lighting up will continue to be allowed on railway platforms that are open to the elements and on the open decks of ships.

The Federal Railways says it is "very optimistic" that the move will win broad acceptance among the public.

Spokesman Christian Kräuchi told swissinfo that the company was following the general trend toward not allowing smoking in public areas, and wanted to protect its passengers.

Seat occupancy

He added that seat occupancy rates were expected to improve, while passengers and crew would no longer be exposed to passive smoking.

"Within two weeks all our 3,000 coaches will have "no smoking" stickers and within six months all ashtrays will be removed or fixed so they can no longer be opened," Kräuchi said.

The Federal Railways says that the savings made in cleaning will more than compensate for the cost of the refit.

People who ignore the ban will be warned by train crews, and handed an emergency cardboard ashtray labelled "The last puff".

"[We want our staff to be] friendly but firm. There's no question about it. We won't discuss the matter. We'll say it's no smoking," Kräuchi added.

He does not think the Federal Railways will face many problems, pointing to the successful introduction of similar bans on railways in neighbouring France and Italy, as well as on Zurich's commuter rail service.

Smokers' interests

When the decision was announced at the end of June, it provoked the well-known Swiss aviation entrepreneur, Moritz Suter, to try to defend the interests of smokers.

He suggested that special smokers' carriages be added to trains running on the main lines.

But his plan went up in smoke because of a lack of financing.

"It was only an idea and not a concrete proposal," Kräuchi said. "We told him what it would have meant to run special coaches with smoking compartments.

"It is very expensive to have a service like that and it's money we don't have. He needed financial backing but that was not possible on such short notice."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

Fewer than 25 per cent of rail passengers smoke on trains.
Seats in the smoking area often remain unoccupied because smokers prefer to travel together with non-smokers in the non-smoking compartment.
There has been no smoking on buses, postal buses and trams for many years.

end of infobox

In brief

Swiss railway companies believe the introduction of the "no smoking" ban will cost them about SFr11 million.

Of this, SFr8.5 million will go on refitting about 3,000 carriages.

Offenders of the ban face a penalty of SFr25.

end of infobox


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