SBB records first annual profit since COVID pandemic

SBB records first annual profit since COVID pandemic

After not turning a profit for three years, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced that it was back in the black thanks to welcoming a record-equalling number of travellers in 2023. However, while the public transport provider did make net revenues in the millions last year, it is not enough to finance its debts or fund future rail expansion projects.

SBB returned to profitability in 2023

In a statement, SBB announced that it had made a net profit of 267 million Swiss francs in 2023. This is the first time the firm has made a net profit since 2019, with all Swiss rail companies suffering from a severe decline in passenger numbers, brought on by COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions, from 2020 to 2022.

SBB explained that the main reason for the reverse in fortunes was a “faster and stronger than expected growth in passenger numbers.” In 2023, the company transported 1,32 million people every day, equalling the record set in 2019 and earning the company 3.731 million francs. Along with people returning to the office after home or hybrid working, more and more people were travelling between Swiss cities and abroad for holidays and leisure time.

New Swiss transport tickets prove a success

The company also reported success with many of its new public transport tickets, especially the GA Night subscription - which grants under-25-year-olds unlimited travel on the network from 7pm to 5am for just 99 francs a year. 89.000 GA Night subscriptions were sold in its first year alone, while sales of GAs (+3,8 percent) and half-fare travel cards (+6 percent) also increased last year. 

On the whole, the company concluded that SBB trains remain "safe, clean… and on time.” However, they did concede that the large amount of passengers on the trains had led to declining satisfaction scores for cleanliness.

SBB continues to struggle with 11-billion-franc debt

While the 267-million figure is good news, SBB said that it was “not enough to significantly reduce debt, to compensate for the massive losses of previous years, [nor] to finance future investments.” Currently, SBB maintains a debt of 11,26 billion Swiss francs. They argued that the company would have to maintain a net profit of over 500 million francs a year if it is to keep improving services and attract more staff - they estimated that there will be 6.000 job vacancies at the company by 2030.

They added that only a third of SBB profits come from ticket sales, meaning it remains “highly dependent on the support of public authorities.” With the Swiss government hinting at cutting funding for SBB in the long term, having already reduced rail subsidies between 2025 and 2028, it remains unclear whether the company will be able to maintain profit margins.

What does the future hold for railways in Switzerland?

Looking ahead, SBB said that it hoped that the Bahn 2050 expansion project, which was already approved by the Federal Council in 2023, would become a reality. In the future, they said they hope to work with the government to establish fast connections to more international destinations, especially German cities and possibly new places as far away as London.

“Switzerland is the European champion in rail travel. As a climate-friendly and space-saving means of transport, rail will continue to play a central role in overall mobility in the future,” they concluded.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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