Switzerland misses target to make 500 stations fully accessible
Despite being mandated by law to make the change, 500 stations across Switzerland will not be adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities this year, the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) has admitted. The government will be reforming its timetable to avoid public transport providers being in breach of the law again.
Disabled access at stations in Switzerland 20 years in the making
By the end of 2023, the vast majority of the 1.838 train stations across Swiss cities and cantons should have been adapted so that people with disabilities could use them without external assistance. This was decided after the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act in 2004, which gave rail providers 20 years to see the changes made.
Now, the Federal Office of Transport confirmed to RTS that despite its “repeated interventions”, 499 railway stations that should be fully accessible will not have the changes made by the end of the year. The stations that are still unfinished are controlled by either Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) or one of the many other regional transport companies.
499 Swiss rail stations yet to be made accessible
The FOT explained that 922 stations were already up to standard at the end of 2022, 106 stations are still on time to be accessible by the end of 2023 and 190 stations have been given a special exemption from the rule as the government decided that making these stations accessible would result in “disproportionate” financial or logistical costs. However, with 499 non-exempt stations yet to be upgraded, technically both the government and rail providers are not following the law.
Federal authorities said that while the government can help, rail firms are ultimately responsible for making the changes. However many have told the FOT that they lack the workers, financial resources and available construction time to make the changes needed.
As a result of the delay, the FOT has announced that it is in discussions with rail firms over a new timetable to convert the stations "with the aim of reducing delays as much as possible." Until then, at the stations that are unconverted, those with disabilities are still entitled to mandatory services like on-site assistance and the offer of a dedicated shuttle to accessible locations.