Why are the Swiss known for their punctuality?

The Swiss are seen by many other nationalities as being particularly punctual. It is a common stereotype – but not necessarily true. Apart from being notorious for their watches, their public transportation is also known for generally being on time and for the quality of their transportation. Why is this?

Maybe it’s because the Swiss use the trains more than any other nationality in Europe, and almost any other nationality in the world (second in the world to Japan). Yet the Swiss travel the furthest than any other nationality in the world. A 2015 study showed that, on average, each person travels 2277 km by train each year (Japan 2052 km, making them second). This would imply that there is a benefit to having good quality, reliable trains because they are being used so often.

However, many incidents prove that Swiss trains are not as reliable as they may seem. A line between Lausanne and Morges was suspended because a train hit a cow in August. Then trains from Zürich to Geneva and Zürich to Lausanne were all suspended because the police had to remove the cow’s body and catch another cow that had escaped from its field. Then there was another recent incident involving a man with a knife and a fire attack on a regional train. Someone died as a result of this.

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This is not a picture of the incident, but it demonstrates what it would’ve been like at the time of incidence.

But does this make Swiss trains unreliable or is this just something that happens out of SBB’s control? Either side could be argued and there is a lot of evidence to support both ideas. © Caters