The Swiss are the gold standard for public transport, they have been for decades. It’s not the fastest, it’s not the most glamorous, it’s simply designed to work, and it does, extremely well.
A study commissioned by Michael Page discovered that 54% of commuters in Switzerland take public transport (ferry, bus, tram, train, railways) to reach their workplace. A staggering 94%, rate the commute as efficient.
Needless to say on my arrival into Geneva this week, I was keen to put it to the test.
We are staying in Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva. It took an hour from the time we left the airport to the time we walked into our hotel, a distance of 60 kms. Impressive.
Two days later, we took public transport from Lausanne to a ski resort high up in the Swiss alps. A ride on the Metro connected to a regional train which connected to an alpine train which dropped us in the heart Les Diablerets within a 10 minute walk of the ski lifts. I’m not a skier, we went there for the 7.5 km bobsleigh course, the biggest in Switzerland (and it was wild). The ninety minute journey with a maximum of five minutes waiting time between connections arrived a minute late. Je suis choqué!
The Swiss prioritise public transport to get people from one place to another as efficiently as possible and it does.
Admittedly, Switzerland is a very wealthy country and small in comparison to other countries. However, most wealthy countries don’t prioritise public transport. In fact, many do the opposite, including Australia.
It seems planners are prepared to allow our major cities and urban centres to expand endlessly with significant reliance on motor vehicles as the major form of transport.
The world is screaming for better and more sustainable travel options and building more roads isn’t the answer. We need hub and spoke public transport systems whereby towns and major urban locations are connected by fast rail, and slower more prolific metro systems can be built for moving people within these centres.
Imagine travelling by train 50 kms in 15 minutes (or 100 kms in 30 minutes), then jumping on another train within 5 minutes to travel the remaining 10 kms in another 10 minutes. It would revolutionise our attitude towards public transport, allow urban planners to prevent the sprawl, and importantly, decrease our reliance on motor vehicles.
Australia is a very large country. However, 80% of population lives on the south eastern part of the country. It’s time for our federal and state governments coordinate their resources to develop a better serving and more sustainable public transport system.
Footnote: the slick looking SBB train in the photo has a top speed of 200kms. We don’t need to aspire to have the fastest trains on the planet to create an effective public transport system, just ask the Swiss.