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Swiss Railways is watching you

A Swiss Federal Railways train already equipped with camera (SBB)

Security cameras will provide round-the-clock surveillance on 225 Swiss trains from this autumn.

The move is a response to increased violence and vandalism on the railways. In 2002 there were 345 such incidents on Swiss trains, more than double the number of the previous year.

“In the past few years we have seen violence increase significantly,” Swiss Federal Railways spokesman Roland Binz told swissinfo. “In particular against railway staff.”

The cameras will be installed first on lines in western Switzerland, where the problems of violence and vandalism are greatest.

Pilot project successful

In 2001 Swiss Federal Railways introduced a pilot project, with video cameras on some trains running between Lausanne and Geneva.

This proved successful, with cases of vandalism on the route dropping by 80 per cent. And, Swiss Federal Railways says, just the sight of the cameras makes passengers feel much safer.

“Increased violence is something which affects the whole of society,” said Binz. “So we can’t expect the railways to be immune.”

The new cameras are needed most on regional lines, where many trains now operate without conductors. Although trades unions would like the conductors brought back, Swiss Federal Railways says this would be too expensive.

But on some regional lines in Zurich train guards are being introduced; they will come on duty after 9pm. Swiss Federal Railways believes this may be an affordable option for other regions too.

Who's watching?

The introduction of the cameras raises issues of data protection and privacy, but Swiss Federal Railways believes regular passengers have nothing to worry about.

The videotapes will only be looked at and kept if there has been an incident on a train. All other tapes will be erased after 24 hours.

Binz says the cost of introducing the cameras on existing trains will be high - "several million Swiss francs".

All new trains coming into service will be equipped with cameras automatically.

But Swiss Federal Railways believes it is money well spent; vandalism is estimated to cost the railways SFr6 million a year.

swissinfo, Imogen Foulkes

train summary

Incidents of violence and vandalism on Switzerland's railways more than doubled in 2002.
In 2001 security cameras were introduced as a pilot project on trains between Lausanne and Geneva; vandalism fell by 80 per cent.
Damage caused by vandalism and violences costs the railways an estimated SFr6 million a year.

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