We are proud to say that public transport in Switzerland is one of the best systems in the world. Travelling with Swiss public transport is easy and convenient. Whether you travel by train, bus, ship or mountain railway, the various means of transport take you wherever you want. Fast and punctually to the minute.

A boat trip is a lot of fun exploring the beautiful Swiss landscapes
A boat trip is a lot of fun exploring the beautiful Swiss landscapes

Success thanks to innovation

Swiss public transport can look back on an impressive success story that continues to this day. Thanks to innovation and precision, public transport has become a worldwide model, and has been since the 19th century. In 1823, the first Swiss steamship plunged into Lake Geneva. But the first mountain railway in Europe can also be found in Switzerland. This is the cogwheel mountain railway on the Rigi, which started operation in 1871. And the longest railway tunnel in the world is also a Swiss masterpiece, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which was inaugurated in 2016 and measures a proud 57,104 km.

Attractive routes for tourists

There are many reasons to explore Switzerland by public transport, especially if you are on holiday or visiting. The breathtaking panorama, the guaranteed connections and the interplay between tradition and innovation. At the Stanserhorn, you take an old-timer funicular from 1893 to the middle station, where you change to the futuristic CabriO cable car. Opened in 2012, the aerial cableway is the world’s first with an open upper deck.

The Oldtimer Railway is a very special experience. Source: www.stanserhorn.ch
The Oldtimer Railway is a very special experience. Source: www.stanserhorn.ch

And the Stoos funicular railway is also a spectacular experience: the cabins of the world’s steepest funicular railway adapt perfectly to the extreme inclination. Passengers always stand on a horizontal surface before enjoying an impressive panoramic view of ten lakes and the magnificent mountain world.

In Zermatt, the highest and most modern three-rope gondola operates with “Crystal Ride” cabins. On the way to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, its glass floor offers a magnificent view of the glacier landscape. At this sight the fear of heights disappears by itself.

Experiences on the lake

Public transport also offers impressive moments on the Swiss lakes. Luxurious motor ships and steamships offer underwater views, a seawater footbath and an indoor gallery covered by a glass dome. There are also many theme ships, such as the fondue or dance ship, which offer the best entertainment and means of transport in one.

Rail and bus transport

The national railway network is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). In addition to the SBB, there are other smaller railway companies, some of which are connected to the SBB network.

SBB is the heart of Switzerland's public transportation system
SBB is the heart of Switzerland’s public transportation system

In no other country is the railway network used as intensively as in Switzerland. Rail traffic around Zurich is the densest. A train passes the Zurich-Altstetten junction every 42 seconds. The trains usually run every hour or half hour, and more frequently around the city centres.

The cities and agglomerations also have a well-developed bus and tram network. Localities that are not connected to the railway network are served by the PostBus AG bus service. In remote, sparsely populated areas without scheduled services, call buses (PublicCars) can be operated if required.

A corresponding ticket for every need

The public transport companies offer various tickets or, as we Swiss call them, tickets and subscriptions. Some tickets can also be paid for online and printed out at home or downloaded directly to your mobile phone as mobile tickets. For children, seniors, families, animals, etc., there are various discounts on tickets and subscriptions. Information on the various ticket offers is available on the Internet or at SBB counters at stations. There are various special offers for disabled travellers.

The success secrets of public transport

Public transport in Switzerland is one of the best in the world. But why is that? Here are a few explanations

  • Comprehensive supply – even to the remotest valleys and regions
  • Customer-oriented offers, such as the general and half-fare season ticket, ensure a high level of convenience.
  • Flexible ticket system: a ticket from A to B is valid on all trains regardless of train type and time of day.
  • Networked interval timetable guarantees a continuous transport chain across all means of transport (train, bus, ship, cable car).
  • Increasing demand is taken into account with route upgrades, denser timetables and new stops.
    The diversity of tourist public transport is a trump card for Switzerland as a holiday destination.

Numbers that convince

In hardly any other country is the public transport offer as dense and well developed as in Switzerland. Public transport is close to the hearts of the Swiss. Not only are they rightly proud of the wide range of services on offer, they also make active use of them. The share of public transport in total motorised passenger transport by road and rail increased from 17% to 20% between 2000 and 2017.

 
Rail: Railway, rack railway

 

Public road transport: Tramway, trolley bus, bus
Cable cars: Aerial cableway, funicular

 

Inland waterways (public): Passenger vessel, car ferry Year

 

Network length1, in km 5 323 21 529 983 562 2015
Stations and stops 1 838 21 846 328 2015
Transport enterprises 74 133 225 32 2015
Vehicle-km2(millions) 199 340 14 2 2017
Person-km (millions) 20 954 4 456 319 1455 2017
Tonnes-km net (millions) 10 2143 … … … 2018
Persons killed (in accidents) 15 12 0 0 2018

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/en/home/statistics/mobility-transport/cross-sectional-topics/public-transport-rail-freight.html

Vocabulary on the subject of public transport

Schweizerdeutsch English
Wo isch d’Tramstation? Where is the tram stop?
Wieviel choschtet s’Billet? How much is the ticket?
De Zug hät Verspötig The train is delayed
Isch da no frei? Is this seat free?
Ich ha keis Billette I don’t have a ticket
Um welli Zit fahrt de Zug? At what time is the train leaving?

You can find more useful Swiss German words in our online dictionary.

The Swiss secret of public transport success
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