Sunday, May 05, 2013

Traveling Swiss


Traveling in Swiss is a treat.  The entire experience is pleasant and comfortable.  From purchasing tickets to reaching the platforms with luggage to transferring to local buses.  All steps in the journey are neatly choreographed and works to the legendary Swiss watch precision.

Public transport is the most preferred and convenient way to commute in Swiss.  Whether you are heading to one of the two main airports or to the snowy hills or navigating through the Swiss towns; trains and buses are your best companion.

I usually get to Lausanne by train from Geneva airport by train.  But buy tickets every time either via vending machine or at ticket counters.  It has worked well but my Swiss colleagues showed me a better way to travel.

I was making plans for heading to Geneva for the weekend marathon and was looking through the train schedule stuff.  While I was trying to do that in my laptop, my colleague searched ceaselessly via her iPhone and encouraged me to do the same. 

Curious, I downloaded SBB mobile app for my Android phone, registered and was on my way to purchasing ticket in a jiffy.  I looked thru the schedule; picked the train, purchased and got the ticket delivered to my phone, all in a matter of minutes.  I also got receipt and other usual audit trail details sent to my inbox. 

Here, I couldn’t help but contrast this experience with what I went thru last week with Indian Railways.  I heaved a sigh of relief after going through the odyssey of booking tickets for Sita & Meera for their travel to Bangalore.  It took over an hour of combined effort and prayers to get past many IRCTC hurdles.  Each time we ‘clicked’, we would keep our fingers crossed and say a prayer for the site to take us to the next logical step and not crap out.  At one time, we were ‘this’ close but the payment gateway decided to take a break, and we got back to square one.

I could sense what my Indian friends saying now.. ‘we have come a long way and this is better than the manual system we had before’.  And I agree, yes this is much better than what we 25 had years back.  In fact, I played a small part in Indian Railways ‘computerization’ at the beginning of my IT career (Don't blame me for the current status though:-).   But, why can’t we have the BEST system that the world can only envy?  I am sure, we can come up with 100s of reasons for why ‘we can’t’.. but then they all would be reasoning our own weakness.  Seriously, if there is one fundamental change I wish to see Indian Railways, it would be the elimination of manual scavenging.  Indian Railways employs the most manual scavengers in the world and in fact has a job category by that name.  I hope it happens in my life time..

Off my soap box, back to Swiss Trains
Ticket in my mobile phone used for scanning by the Ticket Checker - No Paper
I am on a train heading to Geneve now and when the ticket checker came, all I had to do was to show my phone.  He scanned in his portable system and the job over.  Now it’s time for me to get off and head to the Geneva Expo....

Adios Amigos..