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Swiss rail travel: What compensation you are entitled to if your train is cancelled?

Swiss rail travel: What compensation you are entitled to if your train is cancelled?
Even pretty scenery can't make up for cancellations and delays.Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Switzerland boasts an efficient and punctual rail network, but sometimes things go wrong. What can you do if your travel is… derailed?

On Wednesday, the Swiss media reported an incident that happened at the Zurich station on July 18th: the night train going to Budapest was four wagons short.

Passengers who had reserved seats on the missing carriages could therefore not board, and tempers flared, causing chaos on the platform. 

Although the train in question is operated by the Austrian Federal Railways, it was up to the Swiss railways (SBB) to resolve the mess in the middle of the night.

‘The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Stranded passengers were put up in hotels and their tickets will be reimbursed up to 50 percent of the price. 

“This refund leaves much to be desired, since travellers are in no way responsible for what happened”, said Blick newspaper.

This incident raises the question of what kind of compensation can stranded travellers claim in Switzerland if their train is cancelled?

As is the case with airline travel, these incidents are compensated in accordance with the European Union’s “Rail Passenger Rights” regulation, which applies to train travel within the EU. 

Switzerland has compensation guidelines relating to both domestic and international travel.

For instance, on the national network, you are entitled to recoup 25 percent of the ticket price for delays of 60 minutes or more. For a delay of 120 minutes or more — which was the case with the Budapest-bound train —  50 percent of the ticket price is refunded.

Under the SBB and the EU rules, ‘delay of more than 120 minutes’ also includes cancellations.

The same compensation rules apply to international travel. The only exceptions are TGV connections, where refunds can be claimed for delays of 30 minutes or more.

Tickets costing less than 5 francs are not compensated. 

If you are unable to reach your destination due to a cancellation or a delay, then the SBB will pay for overnight accommodation and breakfast up to the value of CHF200. 

More compensation regulations — including those relating to cancellations and lost luggage — as well as refund claim forms, can be found here.

What can you do to get better compensation for disrupted train travel?

As refunds offered by SBB only partially cover your expenses, the only way to recoup the entire sum is to take out a travel cancellation insurance.

It applies to all travel, not just by rail.

However, before signing on, read the conditions carefully to see what exclusions apply. The Local has covered this subject in detail in this article:

READ MORE: Covid travel cancellations: What costs will Swiss insurers cover?


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