BBC commentary on Swiss Railway Ticketing


DAVID STEVENSON
 

On 5 Feb 2013, at 08:10, Krist van Besien wrote:

What I understand is that she bought the ticket after she had started
travelling. And that is indeed not allowed. That is in fact not even a
new rule, and it would have gotten her in trouble two years ago too.
That SBB ignored the fact that the ticket machine was inoperative is
also something I find hard to believe. I have been in exactly such a
situation. And my statement that the machine didn't work was accepted
without much ado.
I must say however, that non functioning ticket machines are not
something I have a lot of experience with. I have only encountered one
in my 10 years in Switzerland, and last weekend I encountered a non
functioning ticket validator for the first time.
She bought the ticket on the platform using her mobile phone, showed it to the conductor who accepted it, she was later fined by SBB by post as the payment by the credit card showed up four minutes after departure. What's reasonable about that?

I'm starting to get angry now at the complacency shown here by those who know and totally understand the system and the assumption that Joe Public should know better. They do not, they never will and why should they? All they want to do is to get on a train, pay the fare, before boarding IF possible and get off at the other end.

DAVID S


bs177@...
 

--- In SwissRail@yahoogroups.com, DAVID STEVENSON wrote:
She bought the ticket on the platform using her mobile phone, showed it to the conductor who accepted it, she was later fined by SBB by post as the payment by the credit card showed up four minutes after departure. What's reasonable about that?

I'm starting to get angry now at the complacency shown here by those who know and totally understand the system and the assumption that Joe Public should know better. They do not, they never will and why should they? All they want to do is to get on a train, pay the fare, before boarding IF possible and get off at the other end.

DAVID S
I doubt if we will ever know the true story, but having witnessed numerous passengers getting on IC trains at Bern myself offering fares to the conductor when he/she came round, it would appear that passengers had got used to not buying tickets before boarding and I thought this most curious at the time given the numerous opportunities available to buy a ticket there. It may be the case that our journalist friend had also become used to purchasing tickets by phone or laptop at the very last minute rather than buying it from a machine or ticket office. If nothing else, she has done SBB a favour in a perverse way by highlighting the fact that you must buy a ticket before boarding and that purchasing tickets by phone whilst on the platform may land you in trouble too given that you should allow up to 5 minutes for the ticket to be delivered.

Cheers

Bruce


Heléna Moretti
 

Gordon wrote:

 

 

"For me this smacked of a typically hyperbolic pieec of sensationalist journalism from a non specialist transport journalist."

I am afraid to say that the experience described here is very common and will begin by describing my own experience. I boarded a train with an English couple in their seventies, who were travelling from Locarno to Basel using the first day of their Swiss Passes, they needed a little help with their luggage so I obliged and then sat with them. They had been coming to Switzerland for forty years and I found their memories fascinating, this was a dream trip for them (paid for by their sons for their anniversary).
Then the Ticket Inspector arrived and we showed our passes, all good and valid, then he asked us for our passports. I was a little surprised but did have mine but the old couple explained that the Hotel they were in had insisted they deposit their passport when they checked in and the reception had promiced to return them after breakfast, however the train they boarded (09:46 Locarno-Basel) meant they had to leave before this was possible.
The Inspector charged them both full fares to Basel and the fine for not having their passports with them, I was aghast at his callous and over-officious attitude (and the cost!). I expect Krist will say well it's in the rules, they should have known. Perhaps this is true but it brings me to my main point.
This dogmatic attitude and those others on this site are changing the image we have in the UK of a rail holiday in Switzerland. When I first came in 2000 it was off the back of enthusiastic recommendations of other people, I doubt this article and the experiences I am constantly hearing about will have the same positive effect. Turning a ship takes a long time and as public opinion turns away from SBB and Swiss train travel in general because of draconian ticket policies and unhelpful staff; the revenue effect will be noticed only when it is already too late and the ship is sailing away and it will take a lot to turn it back round.
I used to travel to Switzerland three times or more a year, last year I came once. Part of the reason for this is the feeling of being a criminal until proven innocent that the inspectors make me feel. Am I the only one who feels they have changed from the friendly and helpful staff I used to experience twelve short years ago.
...and of course they should use Re6/6 on Gotthard expresses like they used to.
Helena


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 9:28 AM, DAVID STEVENSON
<bodensee.toggenburg@me.com> wrote:

She bought the ticket on the platform using her mobile phone, showed it to the conductor who accepted it, she was later fined by SBB by post as the payment by the credit card showed up four minutes after departure. What's reasonable about that?
If that is what happened than that is indeed unreasonable. Than its a
glitch in the system and she should just contest the fine.
But my impression is not that this is what happened. (I wonder also
how she could be fined afterwards if the conductor never wrote out
one...)
I suspect that her trip did not start at Bern Hbf. I suspect that she
boarded at another station, could not buy a ticket there, and then
went through the whole purchase while on the way to Bern. That would
indeed have shown here buying the ticket after departure.


I'm starting to get angry now at the complacency shown here by those who know and totally understand the system and the assumption that Joe Public should know better. They do not, they never will and why should they? All they want to do is to get on a train, pay the fare, before boarding IF possible and get off at the other end.
Wat Joe Public also want is for his taxes to be low, and the fares to
be reasonable, and the atmosphere on board to be pleasant. All this
requires a set of rules that is uniformly applied.

The rule that you have to have a ticket before boarding is not new. It
has applied to regional transport for quite a while. I fail to see why
making it a general rule is such a big issue.

Let me tell you another story:

- A while ago I was on my way from Bern to Olten. I got in the IR in
Bern and took a seat. During the trip to Olten a heated argument broke
out between a passenger sitting oposite me and the conductor. The
passenger was an African who only spoke English, and the conductor
really didn't want to go in to a debate. So the guy started to talk to
me. And I listened. I got his whole story.

The man in question had boarded a train to Olten earlier that day in
Zürich. It was the IR that goes via Baden-Brugg, and the guy had dozed
off and missed his stop, and ended up in Bern. So he took the train
back in Bern, and got in an argument with the conductor.He was angry
that the conductor had not woken him up in Olten, so he blamed the
fact that he missed his stop on him.
Turns out that wasn't the whole story. He had boarded the train in
Zürich without a ticket. The conductor had fined him, and given him a
receipt that allowed him to travel to Olten. Dozing off he had missed
his stop, ended up in Bern and boarded a train back to Olten there.
And encountered the same conductor, who was not amused, and fined him again.

I actually managed to calm the guy down. I explained him that in
Switzerland you are responsible yourself for getting of at the right
stop. I also asked him why he had boarded without a ticket.

The answer was that he usually got away with it. Basically he believed
the was entitled to free travel and expected to be able to get away
with it.

And this is the problem. Conductors have to deal with people like this
on a regular basis. They cannot get in to arguments (I make it a point
never to get in to an argument with a conductor myself) all the time.
How are they to check every story someone comes up with?
The only way to do this, is to have consistent rules, and apply them.
And yes, that means some people will get angry. But there will always
be angry people. There will always be complaints.

I once boarded a train at a small station in the Netherlands, where
the only ticket vending machine accepted coins and dutch debitcards
only. I didn't have enough coins to buy a ticket to Arnhem from there.
So I approached the conductor. The conductor explained that she could
not sell me a ticket, and that she had to write out a fine. I
accepted, but did not immediately pay the fine. When the bill came I
just contacted the NS customer service, and explained my problem. They
reduced the bill to the price of the ticket, and that was it. Really,
its not a big deal.

Krist

--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM, Heléna Moretti
<helena.moretti@btinternet.com> wrote:
I expect Krist will say well it's in the rules, they should have known.
Actually leaving your pasport with the hotel staff is against the
rules too. Not the SBB rules though...

When I was a teenager the Belgian railway introduced a cheap tariff
for young people, that involved buying a 10 trip card for a fixed
price, where you could then fill out the trips yourself. You had to
enter the date, the origin and destination on a line each time you
used it. You had to fill it out before you boarded.
And the conductors were extremely strict in enforcing it, as the
system was abused a lot.
I can understand the logic behind the SBB rules, and the need to be consistent.

What else do you expect SBB conductors to do? Be more lenient to old
white couples, but more strict to young Africans? Imagine the uproar
if they did that...

Krist

--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


bs177@...
 

--- In SwissRail@yahoogroups.com, Krist van Besien wrote:
What else do you expect SBB conductors to do? Be more lenient to old
white couples, but more strict to young Africans? Imagine the uproar
if they did that...

Krist
In a roundabout way, Krist's story highlights the problem that CH is having as it becomes more cosmopolitan and border controls are relaxed. I recall a long conversation with a Swiss couple over breakfast in Filisur where they expressed concern over the number of Eastern Europeans granted asylum as a result of the Balkans wars and the resulting increase in crime.

Helena describes a country which we all recognised 20 years ago but unfortunately has moved on and (sadly) acquired many of the bad habits and anti-social behaviour that we have become used to in our own countries.

It is little wonder then that the authorities have felt the need to clamp down if fare evasion has spiralled out of control. As Krist says, you cannot have one rule for one and another for someone else - however the occasional use of common sense and an appeals proceedure that is seen to be fair cannot go amiss.

This however is a far cry from a Norwood Junction RPI who was known as "The Animal" and would think nothing of pinning a persistent fare evader against a wall until a fare was paid or at least verifiable name and address was extracted! I will also leave it to the reader to speculate where the fare evader might have originated from.

Cheers

bruce


Bill Bolton
 

On Tue, 5 Feb 2013 11:33:15 +0100, Krist wrote:

But my impression is not that this is what happened.
Perhaps if you ACTUALLY READ THE STORY you'd KNOW "what happened"
<rolls eyes>

"And then, there is me. One frosty morning I arrived ****at my local
station*** to find that the ticket machine was broken. No matter, I
thought, I have got a smartphone, and I hurriedly set about buying my
ticket that way.

This was not as easy as I had hoped, fiddling between credit card and
phone with freezing cold fingers, ****but, by the time I got on the
intercity to Geneva I had an e-ticket**** and I proudly showed it to
the conductor."

I suspect that she....
No suspicion is involved, the facts are clearly stated.

Bill Bolton
Sydney, Australia


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 12:26 PM, Bill Bolton <billbolton.email@gmail.com> wrote:
On Tue, 5 Feb 2013 11:33:15 +0100, Krist wrote:

But my impression is not that this is what happened.
Perhaps if you ACTUALLY READ THE STORY you'd KNOW "what happened"
<rolls eyes>

"And then, there is me. One frosty morning I arrived ****at my local
station*** to find that the ticket machine was broken. No matter, I
thought, I have got a smartphone, and I hurriedly set about buying my
ticket that way.

This was not as easy as I had hoped, fiddling between credit card and
phone with freezing cold fingers, ****but, by the time I got on the
intercity to Geneva I had an e-ticket**** and I proudly showed it to
the conductor."

I suspect that she....
No suspicion is involved, the facts are clearly stated.
The facts are clearly stated, but there are gaps in the story. I am
trying to piece together a story that fits what she wrote and the
facts as I can see them here in Switzerland.
If a broken ticket vending machine prevented her from getting a ticket
she must have started in a small station. Another poster mentioned
that the author lives in Bern. The text further mentions "at my local
station" which to me points towards one of the suburban S-Bahn
stations in Bern. These are unmaned and do indeed often have only one
or two ticket vending machines.
Bern Hbf, where the IC to Geneva leaves from has however tons of
ticket vending machines, and a manned ticket counter. A broken ticket
machine there would have been a minor nuisance.
So there is something that at a first glance doesn't make sense.
However, "boarding at Ostermundigen and finishing your mobile phone
ticket purchase by the time you've alighted in Bern and found the IC
to Geneva" does make sense...

Krist
--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 12:08 PM, <bs177@ggbooks.plus.com> wrote:

As Krist says, you cannot have one rule for one and another for someone else - however the occasional use of common sense and an appeals proceedure that is seen to be fair cannot go amiss.
As far as I understood the conductors do have some room to apply
common sense. For example, if you enter Switzerland with a Milano -
Spiez ticket and want an extension to Interlaken they will sell you
that. Even if you've already changed in Spiez. The same for tourists
who got lost.

But the problem is when someone comes with a story that the conductor
himself cannot verify. Do you expect the conductor to make assumptions
on your honesty based on your appearance?

Krist


--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Andrew Moglestue
 

But the problem is when someone comes with a story that the conductor
himself cannot verify. Do you expect the conductor to make assumptions
on your honesty based on your appearance?
I myself have witnessed countless situations with conductors being soft on people who I wouldn't have been so soft on.
 
So my impression is that they are doing all they can to accomodate mishaps and honest mistakes.
 
Also, if you do get fined you can complain to SBB customer service department and ask for the case to be reviewed. I know several people who either got part or all of the fine money back.


OL.Guerbetal
 

Am 05.02.2013 11:39, schrieb Krist van Besien:
What else do you expect SBB conductors to do? Be more lenient to old
white couples, but more strict to young Africans? Imagine the uproar
if they did that..
I expect conductors to distinguish between people without ticket at all and people having bought a ticket but perhaps the wrong one or having forgotten something. If I forget my Generalabonnement at home, I will pay CHF 5.00, which is a fair price for my fault. But paying the whole journey only because the hotel has retained the passports, *is* wrong.

Am 05.02.2013 09:28, schrieb DAVID STEVENSON:
I'm starting to get angry now at the complacency shown here by those
who know and totally understand the system and the assumption that
Joe Public should know better. They do not, they never will and why
should they? All they want to do is to get on a train, pay the fare,
before boarding IF possible and get off at the other end.
I can only agree with this. It is most interesting to note that not all Swiss railway companies have joined SBB in their new policy!!

Markus, G�rbetal


csipromo
 

I remember arriving in Basel in October 2003 on the last ICE from Frankfurt. I had minutes to make the connection for the last train to Zurich and could not find any personnel at the station. I got on the train with my Swiss Pass. I thought that I would buy a ticket if I had to, but the conductor looked at my Swiss Pass and told me that it was okay as long as I officially activated it in the morning at Zurich HB.
On a previous trip, in the summer of 1985, when arriving in Switzerland from Paris, the conductor filled out my Swiss Pass on the spot and activated in between Basel and Zurich.
How times change. It seems that the current policy is not as forgiving.

Regards

Mike C


David Adams
 

Following the many comments made on this subject in recent days I would add the following.

Those who have actually read what was written by the journalist have made some very valid points. There are, however, wider issues that conflict with SBB's current stance in trying to solve the fare evasion problem, namely the long term effect it could have on Switzerland's tourist industry. On my arrival in Switzerland as far back as 2005 I presented my valid Swiss Pass to a revenue protection inspector (RPI) shortly after departure from Basel SBB and he just stood and looked and looked and looked at it. It does not take more than a few seconds to identify if a ticket is valid so after a full minute I asked if there was a problem. No was the response but I felt that he was inspecting every last word and punctuation mark in a desperate attempt to find some minor fault he could pull me up on. I found that experience intimidating, unwelcoming and totally unnecessary. I do not want to travel in countries that enforce a Gestapo type approach on the innocent. It is bad customer relations which can have serious consequences for a business, not to mention the Swiss economy, and I cringe when I see people trying to defend it. Of course de-staffing many stations has not helped the cause. Replacing ticket offices with a machine which might at some stage become faulty and then penalising the customer for being unable to use it is not acceptable. Neither is the expectation that passengers should be further inconvenienced by having to apply for a refund. Customers are not well informed rail enthusiasts and never will be.

I have had considerable experience of RPI teams in the UK both as a railway employee and a passenger. There will always be a small number who think that they have taken on the powers of the Police and delight in causing as much aggravation to customers as possible. Unfortunately they do far more harm than good but are seldom rooted out. Target the fare evaders by all means but common sense must prevail on the occasions when it is easy to distinguish between an intent to defraud and a situation where there is obviously no such intent as has been described on this forum. Of course I do not want to see those evading payment get away with it but there are more subtle and effective ways of achieving this. Is SBB really interested in stamping out fare evasion or would they rather continue to allow situations where trains can be readily joined without a ticket and then catch people out by imposing over the top penalties? In the UK the reappearance of ticket barriers at many busy stations in more recent years, especially those with heavy commuter flows, has resulted in a significant reduction in fraudulent travel. I have never seen a ticket check of any description being made at an SBB station before entry to the platform is allowed, not even a blitz by an RPI team which happens randomly in the UK.

So hopefully we shall see some moderation in the way this enforcement has been handled to date in the interests of the innocent law abiding majority and the SBB retaining their stature as a model of near perfection in rail travel which hitherto has been acclaimed worldwide and is readily acknowledged by nearly every foreign visitor.

David A.


John Lovda
 

--- In SwissRail@yahoogroups.com, "David Adams" wrote:

Following the many comments made on this subject in recent days I would add the following.
It appears the SBB is more interested in catching someone than keeping him off the train in the first place. I have been to Switzerland over 15 times using Swiss Passes and the conductors looked at the date for three seconds and gave the document back to me. I have taken the S Bahn from Greifensee many times at night and only once was I caught in a ticket "sweep." Again, no problem with my Swiss Pass. A few years ago I bought a one way ticket to the airport and forgot to stamp it before getting on. The conductor kindly wrote the date and time with a pen in the box and went on. Maybe he knew he couldn't do much with me since I was leaving the country.


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 9:52 PM, David Adams <dca24@sky.com> wrote:

I do not want to travel in countries that enforce a Gestapo type approach on the innocent.
I don't either. The UK however is a lot worse here. The Eurostar check
in procedure is a nice example...


Replacing ticket offices with a machine which might at some stage become faulty and then penalising the customer for being unable to use it is not acceptable. Neither is the expectation that passengers should be further inconvenienced by having to apply for a refund. Customers are not well informed rail enthusiasts and never will be.
The fact is that the machines are very reliable. I have only
encountered one faulty machine in 10 years.

Target the fare evaders by all means but common sense must prevail on the occasions when it is easy to distinguish between an intent to defraud and a situation where there is obviously no such intent as has been described on this forum.
That is the point. Try to put yourself in the position of the
conductor. It is not always easy to distinguish
between an intend to defraud and an honest mistake. How should a
conductor make the call?

Krist

--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Krist van Besien
 

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 4:44 PM, Guerbetaler <muesche2-swissrail@yahoo.de> wrote:

I expect conductors to distinguish between people without ticket at all
and people having bought a ticket but perhaps the wrong one or having
forgotten something. If I forget my Generalabonnement at home, I will
pay CHF 5.00, which is a fair price for my fault. But paying the whole
journey only because the hotel has retained the passports, *is* wrong.
The conductor can verify the "I've forgotten my GA" story, as he can
look that up in the system. All you need to do is show an ID. However,
the conductor cannot verify the "the hotel has kept our passports"
story. That is the different.
If we tell conductors to accept a good story at face value we again
open the doors for all kinds of possibilities to defraud the system.

Krist

--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Nick Raven <Nightrocker79@...>
 

That is the point. Try to put yourself in the position of the
conductor. It is not always easy to distinguish
between an intend to defraud and an honest mistake. How should a
conductor make the call?

Surely though, in the case of someone purchasing a ticket as they travel (by say phone or laptop), the conductor can make a judgement call and allow this without further penalty. The passenger can prove that they had no intent to defraud by showing him/her the transaction on the device concerned - even if the ticket check occurs whilst the transaction is still processing. If the transaction fails or is cancelled, then (and only then) a penalty can be issued. Such issues are surely better resolved at the point of sale or time of travel - passengers do not appreciate lengthy procedures having to claim back fines etc, and this can only ultimately lead to people turning to other forms of transport where they have a choice to do so. Revenue protection methods do seem to vary widely from one country to another. I too have had experiences in Holland, where I have been unable to board the first available train because the machines only accept coins or local debit/credit cards and thus on two occasions had to request local businesses to change down large notes so that I had coins available and could thus travel without incurring a fine - this is hardly user friendly in an age where technology should be making life easier!! I have never anywhere else come across machines which do not take all major cards. But this does simplify things for on-board staff. No ticket = fine, regardless of reason. On the other hand, in France - a country which makes it clear everywhere that you must find the conductor immediately if you do not possess a ticket - it's a more flexible approach which relies on the passenger's honesty to avoid a fine. A couple of years ago I was staying in the south of the country where I had to use an un-manned station which had no ticket machine, and a very sparse service. I stuck within the rules and train conductors always issued a ticket on-board without fuss, and on one occasion even let me off part of the fare because he did not have sufficient change for the note I offered. However, at around the same time a revenue squad was circulating in the area with a brief to find fare dodgers, and I witnessed them quite rightly hauling two lads from a train and handing them straight over to the police - I overheard the conversation and the two lads clearly had no intention whatsoever of paying a fare, and a special stop order was made at Lyon in order to remove them from the train (the service was not timetabled to call there). Now in my mind this is the way to go - the rules are clear, but the on-board option still exists, and genuine passengers are not penalised if they stick to those rules. Perhaps it should be the way to go in Switzerland also? Nick




















[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Krist van Besien
 

On Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 7:09 AM, Nick Raven <Nightrocker79@hotmail.co.uk> wrote:

That is the point. Try to put yourself in the position of the
conductor. It is not always easy to distinguish
between an intend to defraud and an honest mistake. How should a
conductor make the call?

Surely though, in the case of someone purchasing a ticket as they travel (by say phone or laptop), the conductor can make a judgement call and allow this without further penalty.
How does the conductor know that the person in question wasn't just
waiting for a conductor to show up before finalising the purchase?
I mean, just start the whole process, just don't press the final buy
button. If no conductor comes, you've just travelled for free. If a
conductor comes you just quickly finish the purchase... Could save you
quite some money, and cost SBB a bundle. No wonder they won't allow
it.

Krist

--
krist.vanbesien@gmail.com
krist@vanbesien.org
Bern, Switzerland


Andrew Moglestue
 

A few years ago I bought a one way ticket to the airport and forgot to stamp it before getting on. The conductor kindly wrote the date and time with a pen in the box and went on. Maybe he knew he >couldn't do much with me since I was leaving the country.
When my GF comes from Germany, she sometimes uses a Mehrfahrtenkarte for Basel Bad - Zürich. The problem is that Basel Bad being a German station, there aren't any Swiss cancelling machines on the platform, at least none that you can run to quickly and get back onto the same train. So she asked the conductor what to do, and he said it's okay if you fill in the date by hand.
 
The next time round she did this again and the inspector on the Zürich train told her off for not stamping, saying she would have had enough time while changing trains at Basel SBB to stamp it, and that she would get a fine next time round.
 
So it does seem to me that the rules for such loopholes and special situations are not applied evenly across the board, or if they are that they are too complicated for the average occasional user to fully understand.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Max Wyss
 

I am just hooking into the discussion here.

The discussion shows many examples "from the past". They are all as
is, and non-contestable.

However, the regulations have changed, and the last serious change was
when the SBB decided that in order to legally get on a train of the
non-regional services, you must be in possession of a valid ticket.
This regulation is essentially the same as it has been now for years
for regional and S-Bahn trains.

Many people used to just jump on a "non-regional" train without ticket
and buy it from the conductor. This habit is now simply no longer
working.

So, the sudden argumentation that "the ticket vending machine is not
working" is a bit weak, because where it is crucal to have a working
ticket vending machine, the regulation has been in force for some time
already (that's a small station; a major station has either more than
one machine and staffed ticket offices. Also, it is easy for the SBB
to verify whether a machine is inoperational. In this case, the fee is
repaid without much ado. The same applies for many other situations.

The rules and regulations are given. And it is a common understanding
that it does not matter whether you know the rule or not, you have to
follow them.

The conductor does have some leeway, but much less than in the past.
And the era of the "honorable fare evader" (who simply shells out the
money without discussions) is over;

Max.