Meet the Swiss train service delayed 75 percent of the time
When we think of Swiss public transport, we usually picture clean modern trains arriving so on time that even three-minute connections are sometimes possible. However, as St. Gallen Tagblatt found out, there are exceptions to this rule, with one rail service in the region being late a whopping three-quarters of the time.
EC between Zurich and Munich delayed three-quarters of the time
Instead of a rickety old train or mountain railway, the service in question is actually one of Switzerland’s most modern, the Eurocity (EC) service from Munich to Zurich via St. Gallen. According to the newspaper, the seven-times daily Swiss international rail service was late 77 percent of the time in 2023.
While this is an improvement compared to 2022, when the EC was late more than 80 percent of the time, the newspaper noted that average delay times have increased dramatically. For instance, only one in every five EC trains were delayed longer than 30 minutes in 2022. Last year, 30-minute plus delays applied to one in every three services, and in many cases, the ECs were so delayed that they were cancelled before they could arrive at Zurich HB.
The delays have become so common that passengers on the EC plan their journeys assuming that delays will happen. One commuter from St. Gallen told 20 Minuten that she never makes plans assuming she will be on time as she “expects it to be late anyway.” Other Swiss travellers told the newspaper that they only take the EC as a last resort and usually go for the technically slower but more punctual Interregional trains.
Which is the Munich to Zurich EC delayed so often?
So what’s causing the Eurocity from Munich to be delayed so often? In what will resonate with any resident of our northern neighbour, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) blamed Germany and issues at Deutsche Bahn for the delays. Speaking to 20 Minuten, SBB spokesperson Reto Schärli said that the vast majority of delays originate in Germany and that plans to rectify the situation haven’t had an impact.
“In 2023, short-term damage to the railway systems in the Allgäu led to slow speeds. The slow speed limits have been lifted since mid-November, then the onset of winter in Germany led to renewed restrictions,” he noted. Schärli confirmed that to reduce the delays, EC trains can now “overtake” other Swiss services if they are up to 10 minutes late, but conceded that it has not been enough to make them more punctual.
Swiss cantons debate removing Eurocity from the timetable
As one of the fastest connections between Zurich, St. Gallen and Bavaria, the delays on the EC have also drawn the ire of cantonal governments, with St. Gallen cantonal councillor Beat Tinner (FDP) telling 20 Minuten that they were looking into how to solve the delays. He noted that two of the most radical solutions being considered involve taking the service off the schedule entirely or replacing the trains with regular Swiss services as soon as they cross the border, either from St. Margrethen or St. Gallen.
For their part, SBB said that it was not ready to announce any new measures and was also not in favour of scrapping the service entirely. They added that it was “constantly examining options to improve the stability of the EC and the impact on national transport.” When it came to stopping the EC at the border, while SBB refused to comment on the idea, Tinner himself admitted that the solution would be both “very expensive and not economical."
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