Swiss transport isn’t always perfect

January 31, 2011, 5 Comments

The screeching culprit

It has a perfect image both at home and abroad. And to be fair, it rarely goes wrong, but the last few weeks in Bern have shown that when it comes to transport the Swiss are actually as human as the rest of us. Mistakes are made. And to think, it all began so well…

Just a few weeks ago, as this post showed, Bern was celebrating the introduction of three new tram lines. One of those was the number 6, which replaced the much-loved G Tram – or Blaues Bähnli as it was known locally. The tram stayed in its blue-and-red livery but the route was extended out west to Fischermätteli. Big mistake. The old G trams weren’t designed for the hills and corners of the western suburbs, and for the past few weeks they’ve been screeching their way through town, much to the annoyance of local residents. Even in the city centre, you can hear the high-pitched squeal of number 6 long before you see the tram itself. Apparently, it’s all to do with the wheels being the wrong shape; I guess just being round isn’t enough.

After years of planning and construction, you’d think that some bright spark at Bernmobil might have noticed that the ex-G trams aren’t quite the same as the super-sleek new trams that rumble through the city. Even I could have told them that. But no. The route was extended and the screeching began, followed soon after by the complaints. The problem is that it costs too much to replace all the wheels and takes too long to retrain the drivers to operate the newer trams. Solution: replace the trams with buses, initially only after the evening rush hour. It kind of defeats the object of the exercise (to extend the tram network) but at least it’s quieter.

For me, it’s been rather lovely to read about the ongoing saga every day in the paper.  Not because it’s heartening to see that even the Swiss can cock up something. No, it’s because this is rather like being back in Britain, where such mishaps are common: leaves on the line, the wrong sort of snow and new trains too big for the tunnels. Ah, fond memories of British public transport.

The question is now, how long will it be before the problem is rectified? That’s the real test of Swiss efficiency. Buses aren’t a long-term solution but instant decisions are not a Swiss forte. It may take many meetings and many months before a solution is found. Until then both the screeching and complaining will continue. How very un-Swiss.

5 Comments on "Swiss transport isn’t always perfect"

  1. aegeanx Monday January 31st, 2011 at 10:45 PM · Reply

    I love your writing style.

    I was in CH for the New Year and I had the time to stop by Stauffacher during the last days of December to buy a copy of Swiss Watching. I was informed that you were not there to sign copies but I was given an already signed copy that was still available.

    I love the book and I love your blog.
    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards from Mexico,


    • swisswatching Monday January 31st, 2011 at 10:48 PM · Reply

      Thanks Yolanda. Sorry I missed you last year but at least my plan of pre-signing copies in the shop worked! If you haven’t already done so, then writing a book review for any of the online bookshops (eg Amazon) really helps others decide to buy the book. Even just a line or two! Glad you’re enjoying the blog as much as the book.

  2. Mark Howells-Mead Monday January 31st, 2011 at 11:39 PM · Reply

    It’s not just the noise which is causing problems. Have you seen the subsidence in the tarmac on the corner where your photo was taken?

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