Swiss train operators remove seats to make space for tourist luggage

Swiss train operators remove seats to make space for tourist luggage

After Switzerland celebrated a record year for tourism in 2023, a new report from CH Media has suggested that the increased number of tourists is putting pressure on the nation’s public transport system. Rail companies across the alpine nation noted that tourist luggage was a particular problem last year, and have now announced measures to solve the problem.

Number of Swiss transport tickets sold to tourists soars

According to CH Media, 41,8 million overnight stays were recorded in Switzerland last year, smashing the previous tourism record set in 2019. While great for hotels and ski resorts, analysts noted that the arrival of more tourists was putting pressure on public transport.

The Swiss Travel System organisation reported that the number of transport tickets sold to tourists last year rose by 24 percent compared to the previous tourism record year in 2019, earning providers 360 million francs. Sales to travellers from France, Spain, the US and Indonesia doubled. 

Swiss rail companies say tourism luggage leads to delays

Watson noted that the rise in the number of tourists using the railways has presented a problem: luggage. With most international travellers now booking individually - rather than booking as a group and having their luggage stored separately - luggage compartments on existing carriages are too small to accommodate the demand.

They added that in lieu of luggage space, most travellers like to keep their bags close, leading to blocked compartments and passageways. Transport companies noted that this blocks seats off to passengers during peak times and causes delays by making it slower and harder to get on and off the train.

Zentralbahn removes seats to make luggage space

Therefore, several Swiss rail companies have announced plans to tackle the luggage problem. Speaking to Watson, a spokesperson for the Zentralbahn - the company in charge of transport in destinations like Lucerne, Engelberg and Interlaken - said that, as part of a pilot project, it was removing seats from services to make more room for luggage. 

The firm has also started to modify when cheap saver tickets are available so that passengers are more evenly spread across the day, and has increased the size of some trains so that there is more room. It has also launched a series of new announcements, both in German and English, informing passengers of the correct places to store their luggage. 

From May, renovated carriages will be installed on the route from Lucerne to Interlaken, which will be equipped with portable luggage trolleys to store bags. Finally, from 2025, brand new trains will be delivered with large in-built luggage racks.

Rail companies renovate trains to offer more luggage space

The Zentralbahn isn’t the only Swiss rail provider tackling the issue, with the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) in Canton Graubünden reporting big problems with luggage, especially on the Bernina and Glacier Express. Spokesperson Yvonne Dünser noted that at one point, luggage racks were cordoned off because the “luggage was stacked so high that the travellers on the opposite side no longer had a nice view.”

As a result, the RhB has announced that it will be launching newly renovated trains with bigger luggage racks from 2025. A similar system has emerged at the Südostbahn (SOB), which has started to install folding seats on trains to make more room for bikes and cases. 

However, not all transport companies are reporting problems. A spokesperson for the Berner Bahn (BLS) said that while there are “a lot” of tourists on their trains, the company is yet to face severe problems.

Tourists in Switzerland provide much-needed revenue

For their part, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) told Watson that while tourist luggage doesn’t constitute a major issue at the moment, the urgent need for more luggage and storage space is clear. Therefore, from 2025, 16 brand-new trains will run on popular routes to the mountains, which are fitted with larger storage areas. 

Watson added that it was important to not lose sight of the major benefit tourists bring to public transport. Along with providing revenue during off-peak times of day, their presence also makes regional lines to small towns in the mountains financially viable.

Thumb image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs /

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...

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