New Swiss intercity buses – cheap, but slow

For the first time in Switzerland’s history the nation will finally offer a domestic intercity bus service. From March 25, 2018 Swiss cities like Zurich, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Basel and Geneva will be connected by coach.

Update: the intercity bus service will start only June 10.

Switzerland has an extensive intercity train network, which is heavily subsidised by tax money. In order to protect the existing train network, federal authorities traditionally refused to grant licences to potential intercity bus carriers and this unusual local custom has always been surprising to foreign travellers. Even coach services to foreign destinations (there are many) that stop in different Swiss cities along the way weren’t allowed to accept domestic travellers. However, this February the company Domo Reisen was, for the first time, granted  a licence to service domestic intercity connections. Beginning March 25 they will run four lines connecting all the major Swiss cities through their hub in Rothrist. Buses will be integrated into the Swiss public transport system, so the SBB half-price card, for example, will be valid. The cheapest rates will be considerably cheaper than those offered by the SBB train carrier. The cheapest ticket from Zurich to Bern with the half-price card will cost CHF 11.50, but by train you can expect to pay 25.50CHF (super-saver tickets for trains, if available, can be considerably cheaper). But the journey by train takes 56 minutes, while the bus trip is roughly 2 hours if the traffic isn’t too bad. You’ll also need a reservation for the buses.

The buses could be an interesting option for budget travellers who aren’t in a hurry and for whom punctuality isn’t a factor. The tens of thousands of local intercity commuters, however, probably won’t even take the buses into consideration, as the trains are faster, very reliable and pleasantly punctual. That said, we think it’s actually an addition to the transportation system rather than a competition. To give you an indication of how true that is, consider the following: at the beginning there’ll only be 800 bus seats available per day. By contrast, the national train company SBB transports 1.2 million passengers each day.

Timetables and more information can be found here:   

SBB Supersaver tickets:

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