trains CFF ponctualité Almost 92% of passenger trains in Switzerland are on time (Photo: Luc Citrinot)

Any traveler taking a train in Switzerland will be surprised by the incredible punctuality of the trains on the Swiss Federal Railways network. The SBB trains arrive and depart with a frightening precision in relation to their schedule, to the minute. And this is not a figment of the imagination.

SBB has just triumphantly announced the punctuality results for its trains in 2021: 91.9% of trains arrived on time at their destination station. That is, with less than three minutes delay. This is even better than the initial 2021 objectives. At that time, SBB was counting on a train punctuality rate of 90.5%. The punctuality of connections, which is also measured, is relevant for customers: in 2021, 98.9% of passengers made their connections successfully. This is slightly better than the original target of 98.8%.

SBB attributes this good performance to better planning of the construction sites and to the balanced distribution of the work throughout the year. But also by a “beneficial” Covid effect. Indeed, the lower traffic on the rail network has improved punctuality, as stations are less congested. In fact, the record punctuality of the SBB was reached in 2020 with the significant decrease in traffic due to Covid.

Among the faults identified by the railway administration as contributing to a lack of punctuality, SBB cites construction and maintenance work, delayed track clearances at stations, as well as a lack of flexibility or too few reserves in the timetable. Bad weather also caused delays. For example, November was the worst month in terms of punctuality, due to significant fluctuations in temperature and weather.

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Less punctuality in the French-speaking part of Switzerland

A shadow remains. Punctuality remains lower than average in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, mainly due to the numerous works along the Lake Geneva axis.

In the coming years, French-speaking Switzerland will continue to suffer from a lower punctuality rate. The massive construction work around the Geneva Cornavin and Lausanne stations will continue to affect train punctuality. In particular at Geneva Cornavin. The introduction in 2019 of the TER Léman Express

between France, Geneva and Lausanne had already led to saturation of the main Geneva station. The Léman Express no longer allows additional trains to be introduced into the timetable.

The Federal Office of Transport, the SBB, the canton and the city of Geneva have therefore launched a project to extend the Cornavin station, including the construction of two underground tracks to and from Lausanne, an underground central platform and a new road.

e to and from Geneva Airport. As already announced, the construction work is scheduled to run from 2024 to 2031. The budget amounts to approximately 1.6 billion Swiss francs. It has been approved by the federal government in Bern. This project is part of the Léman 2030 program, which has a budget of approximately 4 billion Swiss francs.