Switzerland's annual best seller, the official timetable of public transport containing a mine of travel information, has just been published. It has hit railway station ticket counters just in time for the timetable change beginning on May 28.
Although 180,000 people will buy the two-volume work for its mass of detail on railways, cableways, boats and buses, modern technology has pushed sales down by a half over the last few years. Much of the information can be found now via the Internet.
"Many people have a PC and the Internet at home. It's easy to go to our web site, type in your departure and destination stations and find the times you need. You really don't have to look it up in printed form any more," says Swiss Federal Railways spokesman Christian Kräuchi.
The timetable, weighing in at one and a half kilos and costing SFr16, is also available on diskettes or CD-ROM...and it can tell you much more than times of departure and arrival.
"You can work out how much a ticket costs, there are hundreds of useful telephone numbers about rail services and you can even find out how to reserve your table in the dining car," says Kräuchi.
"Many mountain railways don't operate all year round and you can find out exactly when they're running. In fact, you can find practically everything about public transport in Switzerland," he adds.
The timetable even contains the altitude of just about every city, town, village and commune in Switzerland. True trivia buffs will find that Mund in canton Valais is located at exactly 1200 metres above sea level?
Tradition has it that the Swiss Federal Railways do not make fundamental changes to the timetable in even years and the year 2000 is no exception.
However, one change is the introduction of the Intercity tilting trains (ICN) from May 28. The Federal Railways have ordered 24 train compositions to run between Sankt Gallen and Lausanne via Zurich and Biel.
As with any review of a bestseller, it is best not to reveal the secret of how much these trains will shorten the journey.
by Robert Brookes