Swiss railways’ peace offering to irate ticket holders

pendolinoThe Swiss Railway System (SBB or CFF, depending on whether you’re a German or French speaker) has reduced fines and, for now, will waive them completely for passengers who inadvertently bought the wrong tickets.

The organisation, famed in Switzerland and indeed worldwide for its efficient service, accepted that too many people seemed to be falling foul of a new ticketing system, introduced at the end of 2011, which requires passengers to buy before they ride.

Ticket machines also proved problematic for some. Rather more than just some, in fact. In 2012 there were almost 450,000 fines.

In a country where minor road infractions invariably result in fines this was, it seems, too much even for the Swiss.

Although the system of fines levied on trains was apparently inflexible, ticket inspectors can prove surprisingly helpful, even friendly. I bought a return ticket from Lausanne to Geneva airport but on the return leg of my journey, several days later, was informed that returns to the airport are only valid on the day they’re purchased. I should have bought an ‘open’ return rather than a ‘normal’ one.

I should have been fined but the inspector said it was an easy mistake to make – and admitted that it was confusing, not least because  an open return ticket is the same price, which rather beggars the question ‘what’s the point?’

I still don’t know the answer. I was happy enough to be let off a fine not to want to push my luck by asking.