SBB to stop selling rail tickets for trips to a number of European nations

SBB to stop selling rail tickets for trips to a number of European nations

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the main public transport provider in Switzerland, has announced that it will no longer be offering public transport tickets for a number of trans-European journeys. SBB told Watson that they were forced into the change by Deutsche Bahn, with some now calling for the government to intervene.

SBB and Deutsche Bahn to dramatically reduce international tickets

From January 1, 2024, people hoping to take a rail journey from Switzerland to a number of European nations will no longer be able to book their tickets through SBB. The company said that they were forced into the change because of a reduction in the range of international train tickets issued by Deutsche Bahn (DB), the primary long-distance transport operator in Germany, which also provides the main system SBB uses to book international tickets.

Rail tickets from Zurich, Basel, Geneva or any other Swiss city to Spain, Great Britain, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Poland and all other eastern European nations will no longer be bookable via SBB, according to Watson. Instead, SBB passengers will only be able to buy tickets to Germany, Italy, France and Austria, before having to book their onward connection elsewhere.

Night train and services to Benelux unaffected by the change

There are some exceptions however: tickets to the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg will still be bookable via SBB, as well as services to Denmark, Czechia and Eurostar trains to London St. Pancras. Finally, night trains from Switzerland, such as the recently opened one to Amsterdam, will also be available to book through the company.

Speaking to Watson, SBB manager Alexander Gellner said that the change was made because of a new plan to centralise booking international tickets within Europe. He explained that the current system that SBB and DB uses makes it harder for them to offer the cheapest tickets available, as their systems are not in sync with those across Europe - so much so that at one point, passengers could save seven francs on a trip to Geneva if they booked through DB.

Too expensive to offer Europe-wide tickets, says SBB

To continue to offer international tickets, Gellner argued, SBB and DB would have to maintain or upgrade their software - a system he says is over 40 years old -  at great cost, only for it to be replaced with a Europe-wide system. Gellner added that the tickets being cut only account for around 1 percent of total ticket sales, so it isn’t financially sustainable to keep the system running.

Gellner said that customers hoping to book rail tickets beyond Switzerland's immediate neighbours will have to wait until the new European system is up and running - the system will be announced in the coming months, and will only be fully operational by 2025 - or buy each leg individually. “We will show alternatives," he noted, adding that Interrail could be a good alternative for Swiss travellers.

Swiss government and consumer associations appalled

The decision has not gone down well with the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation, with managing director Sara Stalder demanding that international tickets remain available to buy from SBB without any extra costs. She argued that it will make planning journeys harder as "every railway company has special rules that you can't just know. This means there is a high risk that the wrong ticket will be bought and that you will be fined during the trip.”

“For me, this step is absolutely incomprehensible and extremely short-term. You can see that you can save a few francs in the short term and thus damage rail travel as a whole,” noted National Councillor Stefan Müller-Altermatt. Fearing that the change will lead to more air travel on the affected routes, he said that SBB, “once again needs more [government] pressure. Especially with a view to climate policy, the SBB need to be reminded more of their responsibility.”

Thumb image: / 2p2play

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

Read more



Leave a comment