End of paper tickets? New SBB data reveals most Swiss rail fares bought online
While it may be a staple of station platforms across Switzerland, new data from Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has revealed that ticket machines may be on their way out. SBB confirmed that a large majority now purchase their public transport tickets through the internet, instead of at the machines.
Large majority of SBB tickets bought online
In 2021, SBB found that 69,9 percent of tickets for public transport in Switzerland were bought digitally, either through their website or on the app. The use of digital tickets has increased by 17,1 percentage points in the last three years, after becoming more popular than paper tickets in 2019.
Meanwhile, the use of ticket machines has declined to just 20,9 percent of transactions over the last year. According to 20 minuten, many within SBB and other transport operators no longer want to maintain their machines, as they are expensive to repair and are no longer profitable. In addition, innovations in Swiss banking, such as contactless payments, have made machines more expensive to upgrade and modify.
For example, Sonja Körkel, spokesperson for the Basler Verkehrs-betriebe (BVB), said that when they installed 550 new ticket machines in Basel, contactless payments became popular only a few years later, and now the transport authority faces huge costs for modifying or scrapping the brand new machines. To this day, contactless payments are not available on most BVB ticket machines.
Rail operators in Switzerland question future of ticket machines
"These are taxpayers' money that we don't want to squander," said Andreas Büttiker, head of Baselland Transport. In his view, while he doesn’t advocate scrapping the machines entirely "the longer they are there, the less a role they will play."
Büttiker said that it was important to keep ticket machines at stations, as not everyone has access to a mobile phone. However, he did question whether cash payments would still be accepted in future, and predicted that more of the machine’s functions will become outmoded in the future.