Tram and bus services in Zurich to be cut from December
In a statement, the Zurich Transport Authority (VBZ) announced that it will be reducing the number of public transport services in and around Zurich due to a lack of workers. Companies in a number of other Swiss cities have also reported issues with recruiting, as all transport firms face the looming austerity measures announced by the government.
Zurich to cut evening tram and bus services
According to the statement, VBZ will be thinning out the number of trams and buses that operate in Zurich in the evenings. The changes will be effective from when SBB’s new timetable begins on December 10, 2023.
From that date, the following measures will be enforced:
- All tram lines and bus lines 31, 32, 33, 46, 66, 69, 72, 75 and 80 will run every 15 minutes instead of 10 from 8.30pm every night.
- Tram line 15 will run every 15 minutes at all times, instead of every 7,5 or 10 minutes.
To partly compensate for the reduction in services, VBZ promised that more night buses will soon run down the nightlife hub of Langstrasse at night on Fridays and Saturdays. Larger buses will also be used on line 701 (Klusplatz-Witikon) during off-peak times to increase capacity.
VBZ beset with a shortage of workers
Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, VBZ spokesperson Leo Herrmann said they regretted the reduction in services, noting that the company continues to face a “tense” shortage of workers. Specifically, the company is struggling to find transport workers specialised in “highly demanding and safety-relevant activities” like driving buses and trams.
VBZ director Marco Lüthi added that sometimes 5 percent of their workers are absent due to sick leave, increasing the risk of cancelled services. Speaking to Watson, Duri Beer from the VPOD transport union argued that this is down to the “additional stress” placed on drivers, noting that break and turnaround times have been reduced, the number of backup drivers has been cut significantly and many VBZ workers have to live outside the city due to the extremely high cost of living.
This isn’t the first time VBZ has been forced to cut services. Tram line 15 was suspended entirely in October 2022 due to an increase in sick leave due to the pandemic and in January 2023, VBZ were forced to temporarily cut services again because of a lack of staff and the high number of workers off sick.
Many fear the end of Zurich's reputation as transport haven
In reaction to the announcement, readers wrote to the Tages-Anzeiger, calling the decision a “catastrophe” and a “sign of poverty.” “This is how we destroy public transport!” another lamented.
Watson explained that many locals fear that Zurich will lose its reputation for effective public transport. In 2019, 41 percent of all trips in the city were made by train, bus or tram, the highest rate in Europe and the third highest rate in the world behind Hong Kong and Singapore.
Hope to resume regular tram and bus services next year
In response to the concerns, Herrmann said that VBZ is confident that they will be able to resume full services in the future, noting that “all training positions for buses and trams in 2023 have been taken.” He concluded that the reduction in service would be in force until December 2024, but did not rule out the earlier return of services.
In terms of other Swiss cities, authorities in Lucerne confirmed that the recent cut in transport funding announced by the government has forced them to cut certain bus routes from December. The Basel Transport Company (BVB) said that while they also face a “major challenge” in finding workers, services should be maintained for now - Bermobil, the public transport provider in the de-facto capital, confirmed a similar situation in Bern.
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