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Beware on the Train

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mass
posts: 24
reviews: 3
Beware on the Train

We just returned from Zermatt. Thanks to the great information on this site we arrived in Zurich and went straight to the baggage office to send our luggage to Zermatt. We than purchased a ticket to the main Station where we were staying for a few days. We were handed tickets and told to go to track 3. When we got to the track there was a sign saying Zurich HB so we stood there waiting for the train. A few minutes later a train arrived further down the platform. We ran down the platform and along with 2 other people jumped onto the 1st car as the doors were closing. When the train staff came into the car they informed us that we were in the 1st class car and we would have to pay an addtional 100 francs. All 4 of us tried to explain that there were no clear signs and we did not understand were we should go and we would happily move. the man kept insisting that we were responsible for ourselves and it was not their fault the we did not understand. He would not let us go to the correct car. He called 2 other employees and the cornered us and threatened to call the police if we did not pay the additiona fee. He would not let us move until we did. We ended up paying since we did not have another choice. It seems crazy that coming from the airport were many people are tourists that they would not make it clear (or tell you when you bought the ticket) that there are different class cars. In most places if you make an honest mistake they tell you and you correct it. Threatening the police seems a little extreme. It was certainly not a great welcome into Switzerland. So be very aware that there are different class cars or it will end up costing you 100 francs to go 2 stops.

Karlsruhe, Germany
Destination Expert
for Baden-Wurttemberg
posts: 5,958
1. Re: Beware on the Train

Each train car has either a big "1" or a big "2" on it next to each door that indicates the class... These numbers also appear inside the cars on the glass doors and inside each compartment.

And yes, in Europe adults are responsible for their actions themselves.

mass
posts: 24
reviews: 3
2. Re: Beware on the Train

Being the first car in the train the "1" could have indicated the car number and not the class number. In the US people are also responsible for their actions, but expect the information to be posted in a way that is clear and when a mistake is made people allow you to correct it and do not threaten police action.

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Zermatt
posts: 13,098
reviews: 6
3. Re: Beware on the Train

I am really surprised Swiss Rail staff behaved like this. I've seen them ask people to move to the correct car on lots of occasions! I would contact Swiss Rail (their email address is on the website - www.sbb.ch/en) and ask them if this is the standard policy when foreigners are in the wrong car. This is really not the norm from my observation.

Mannheim, Germany
Destination Expert
for Zurich, Mannheim
posts: 13,079
reviews: 2
4. Re: Beware on the Train

>In the US people are also responsible for their actions, but expect the information to be posted in a way that is clear and when a mistake is made people allow you to correct it and do not threaten police action.

Huge "1" or "2" besides every door is considered a clear way to mark a 1st class.

If you do not do your research, you are responsible for consequences.

Otheriwse, next time I go to USA I can just put pedal to the metal on the highway and when I am stopped for speeding, I can claim that I had no idea these numbers on signs beside the road are actually speed limit...

Orlando, Florida
posts: 82
reviews: 4
5. Re: Beware on the Train

Thanks for the heads up JMBART. My family and I will be in Switzerland next week and hopping in the wrong train car sounds like something I'd do (in fact, I made the same mistake in Italy many years ago and was politely informed by the conductor that I needed to move).

I hope you didn't let the experience ruin your trip.

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Zermatt
posts: 13,098
reviews: 6
6. Re: Beware on the Train

altamiro, I must say that here in the US we don't have train travel except in very, very limited regions so the vast majority of Americans are not at all accustomed to or familiar wtih the huge 1 and 2 on the carriage doors. Speed limits on the other hand are pretty much worldwide and are generally understood by anyone with a driving license, I hope! It does surprise me that the train staff were so aggressive in this instance given that the offenders were clearly visitors and very likely not familiar with Swiss trains.

Zurich, Switzerland
Destination Expert
for Zurich
posts: 2,883
reviews: 25
7. Re: Beware on the Train

I'm sorry to hear from your incident, JMBART. And I agree that for a tourist just arrived in Switzerland it's not that easy to understand the train system and the difference between 1st and 2nd class. Of course this was not a very warm welcome... But let me try to explain the situation:

In Switzerland there are two categories of trains:

Fast, long distance trains and some of the regional trains have a conductor. When he checks your tickets and finds out that you are sitting in the wrong class, he would normally advise you to either move to the 2nd class waggon or pay the upgrade for 1st class. There shouldn't be a fine in this case. These trains you could even enter without ticket and buy it from the conductor - however you would pay a small extra fee for this.

Regional trains (or S-Bahn as we call them) in urban areas don't have any conductor. This means that they have a self control policy - you are responsible to possess a valid ticket before you enter such a train. There is a symbol of an eye on the waggons to declare this. Occasionally there is a control of tickets. And if you are caught without a valid ticket you get a fine. This applies also if you sit in 1st class with a 2nd class ticket. This is the law. Personally I think that they could be more tolerant with visitors just having arrived in the country. But from their point of view they just did their job.

mass
posts: 24
reviews: 3
8. Re: Beware on the Train

Thanks for the information and suggestion to email the train authorities. It is nice to know that others understand the confusion and hopefully those that do not will gain some tolerance towards others. I hope that others can learn from this so that they do not have such an unwelcoming start to their vacation. I completeing agree about the speed limit. If you are going to take on the chosen responsibility of driving in a foreign country you should certainly know the rules of the road.

Haverhill, United...
Destination Expert
for Switzerland
posts: 5,454
reviews: 34
9. Re: Beware on the Train

I wonder if you encountered a revenue protection squad rather then the train staff these roving teams tend to be a bit more officious than the regular ticket inspectors.

They may have thought that if after they had left you may have moved back to first class though this does not excuse their attitude entirely.

New York, NY
posts: 1,495
reviews: 6
10. Re: Beware on the Train

Like kileysmom, I cannot count the number of times I have seen a Swiss train conductor advise a passenger to either move from 1st to 2nd Class, or pay the supplement. More to the point, I find it astounding that some members here believe that a severe punishment for an honest and innocent mistake is acceptable. Switzerland is a nation of hard work, honesty, competence and rules. I have found that over the past 30+ years of visiting, that some of the rules are simply dumb.