Train travel to and from Switzerland 70 percent more expensive than flying

Train travel to and from Switzerland 70 percent more expensive than flying

A new study by Greenpeace has revealed that, on average, flights from Switzerland to destinations in Europe are 70 percent cheaper than taking the same route by train. Despite the country being well-connected by public transport and lacking an abundance of low-cost airlines, the organisation found that only a handful of rail routes were cheaper than jetting off from Swiss airports.

Switzerland is ideally placed for low-cost rail travel

In the report, Greenpeace made the point that considering its position in the heart of Europe, its relatively large night train network and its proximity to major cities in Germany, France, Austria, Italy and beyond, Switzerland should be at the forefront of low-cost, long-distance rail travel. What’s more, relatively few low-cost airlines fly to Swiss airports, with easyJet being the only provider to offer a large selection of routes.

Despite the ideal conditions, the study found that out of the long-distance routes analysed, taking the train to or from Switzerland is 70 percent more expensive than flying on average. This is perhaps no surprise, given that domestically the Swiss public transport network is the most expensive in the world, according to a recent study by Compare the Market.

Price differences between flying and the train are huge

On traditional routes like Zurich to Berlin, Geneva to Paris, Zurich to Brussels and Zurich to Vienna, the train was found to be slightly cheaper than flying all or most of the time. This was explained by the fact that flights on these routes are still largely served by traditional airlines, and the rail links between them are already well established.

This picture changes once travellers go further afield, with Greenpeace finding that on the Madrid to Zurich route, the train is usually four times more expensive than the plane and takes 12 hours longer than flying at its fastest. This was also the case on the Geneva to Barcelona and Basel to Zagreb routes, where the train is more expensive some or all the time.

Greenpeace calls for new taxes on air travel

When asked how it was able to get to the 70 percent figure, Greenpeace explained that while a small majority of rail routes were found to cost a little less than flying, those that are more expensive cost significantly more. For instance, while taking the train from Zurich to Vienna was a few francs cheaper than flying, at one point flying from Madrid to Zurich was 356,41 francs less expensive per person than the train.

In concluding their report, Greenpeace transport expert Herwig Schuster called on governments to scrap all policies and taxes that make flying less expensive. “Airlines benefit from outrageous tax advantages. Greenpeace calls for an end to airline subsidies and [for] a kerosene tax. The goal: to shift cross-border traffic from air to rail,” he noted, explaining that the income made by the new airline taxes could go towards subsiding the cost of public transport tickets.

For more information about transport costs in other countries, check out the official study.

Thumb image credit: pick2510 /

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