Trains every 15 minutes: SBB CEO announces new radical transport plan

Trains every 15 minutes: SBB CEO announces new radical transport plan

The head of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has announced plans to dramatically reform the public transport network in Switzerland by making sure all routes are served by trains every 15 minutes. Vincent Ducrot explained that the plan will help ease the demand for transport without having to spend big on infrastructure.

SBB faces more passengers and less funding

In an interview with SonnntagsZeitung, Ducrot announced that in the future, no rail passenger in Switzerland will have to wait more than 15 minutes for a connection to their destination. He said that “thanks to digitalisation within the existing rail network” through new traffic control centres, the policy should be able to be implemented nationwide by 2050.

In justifying the policy, Ducrot explained that the rail system in Switzerland is “reaching its limits” due to increased demand from passengers. He admitted that on “short routes of less than 15 minutes during rush hour, there are often no free seats, like in a subway,” meaning more train connections are needed to give travellers flexibility during peak times.

Ducrot added that SBB is also under increasing financial pressure from the government, which has already announced cuts to rail funding over the next two years. Therefore, he argued that “expensive infrastructure that only saves a few seconds in travel time" is not financially viable, and that when it comes to rail expansion plans, both the government and SBB have to “think very carefully about where the cost-benefit calculation is correct.”

15-minute trains will require sacrifice, Ducrot argues

In order to establish a 15-minute rail service nationwide, Ducrot said that Switzerland would have to “do without things that we have become accustomed to over the years.” For those going to work in major cities, the new plan will mean scrapping rigidly timetabled S-Bahn services in favour of a live timing / countdown system, similar to the timetable employed by the London underground.

Most controversially, Ducrot said that the change would also mean that trains may not stop at smaller stations during certain times of the day. Finally, to make sure the 15-minute service can run without having to invest in major expansion projects, he said that some S-Bahn trains will have to be replaced by tram and bus services funded and run by Swiss cantons.

In justifying the stance, he said that ultimately SBB’s goal is “for travellers to get from door to door faster.” Using the new Limmattalbahn tram between Zurich Altstetten and Spreitenbach as an example, he said that if local authorities can help ease rail passenger demand through new tram and bus projects, they should do so. 

Swiss railways remain a model of success, says SBB CEO

In concluding the interview, Ducrot said that while Swiss railways are still a “model of success”, rail firms “must have the courage” to think about facing its problems head-on. “Our federalism and direct democratic processes are a challenge. However, I am convinced that it is possible to reform public transport in Switzerland,” he surmised.

Thumb image credit: Gaid Kornsilapa /

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...

Read more



Leave a comment