Once, I had booked a train from Germany to Switzerland. Due a train strike, Deutsche Bahn informed us our tickets could be used on different dates. I indeed travelled on a different date, but the conductor on the Swiss train said my ticket was not valid.

Another time, I booked a Sparpreis (saver fare) from Switzerland to Germany. The direct train from Zürich to Frankfurt was cancelled, so Deutsche Bahn told me the Zugbindung (requirement to take indicated train) was lifted. I took an earlier train, but the conductor on the Swiss train again said my ticket was not valid, because there was a replacement train for the Swiss part that I had to take (see also If my train is cancelled and replaced, must I take the indicated replacement train when I have a Sparpreis ticket?).

In both cases the conductor let me travel anyway, but with less luck I might have to pay a fine and a replacement ticket.

What are my rights on international journeys between Germany and Switzerland, when Deutsche Bahn informs me that, for whatever reason, I have more flexibility than I normally would have?

If I have a Sparpreis and I am delayed from Germany to Switzerland, can I take a later train within Switzerland?

If I have a Sparpreis and I am expecting a serious delay from Switzerland to Germany, can I take an earlier train within Switzerland?

If there are strikes or other severe disturbances in Germany and I am adviced (by Deutsche Bahn) that I can travel on a different date, does that apply to the Swiss part of the journey as well?

Is this officially written down somewhere, that I could refer to if I have a discussion with a Swiss conductor?

¹This happens often: when the train from Germany to Switzerland is delayed, the Swiss railways run a replacement train from Basel (departing on schedule) and the German train is cancelled beyond Basel. Unlike in Germany, trains in Switzerland tend to run on time.

  • If you have time before your trip, you can go to the SBB ticketing desk and ask to see if they can stamp your ticket as valid without restrictions. This procedure is technically required for domestic discount tickets, even if in practice it is not usually done (because of tight connection time) and the controller most often does not have a problem if they can verify the delayed/cancelled status of the specified trains.
    – xngtng
    Aug 12, 2022 at 9:33
  • @xngtng That might work if (1) there is a SBB ticketing desk at my departure station, and (2) my ticket is on paper.
    – gerrit
    Aug 12, 2022 at 9:50
  • Of course, it's just a suggestion if you are leaving from a staffed station; like I said, for domestic trains, the request to waive specific train conditions is not enforced in practice (because not all stations/trains have staffs in office or on board). (2) doesn't matter; for electronic ticket they will just fill out (or print) and stamp a certificate.
    – xngtng
    Aug 12, 2022 at 9:56
  • @xngtng Hm, as for point (2), I've never tried that (getting delay repay for digital tickets leaves something to be desired, although that information may be out of date)
    – gerrit
    Aug 12, 2022 at 10:05
  • Gerrit, you should not mention that German trains are sometimes late. All foreigners believe three things about Germany (i) German roads have no roadworks ever (ii) All German roads have no speed limits (ii) All German public transport is impeccable. :)
    – Fattie
    Nov 13, 2022 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


Zugbindung in Switzerland is done based on departure time, and not on train number. So if for example the 7:59 to Frankfurt is cancelled, but a replacement Zurich - Basel leaves at the same time you need to take that train, as your ticket is only valid from 7:59 onwards. That leaving an earlier direct train would be more comfortable is irrelevant. The Swiss Railways does not consider forcing an extra transfer as imposing inconvenience on you. (Changing trains is a normal and expected feature of train travel after all...)

So leaving earlier because you have found out in advance that your intended train is going to require a transfer is not permitted.

However taking a later train because a train got completely cancelled without replacement, or because you missed a connection due to a delay is not an issue. I have been in such situations several times (even on separate tickets) and never had an issue.

To give you an example: Recently I returned from Vienna on the NJ. I had a ÖBB Nightjet ticket Vienna - Zürich, and a SBB supersaver ticket for the connecting trains to Interlaken. SBB supersaver tickets are not flexible, so you are supposed to take the train you picked when buying. My NJ was late by an hour, and I just took the next available train. When the conductor came and scanned my ticket her terminal flagged me as being on the wrong train. But then I told her that I was on the delayed NJ, and thus everything was fine.

In general: If you miss a connection due to a fault of the railways (any railway) you can take the next available train. But pre-emtively taking an earlier train because you expect issues is not permitted. Your right to flexibility only starts at the moment that there is an actual issue.

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