Hailing from Kenya, power cuts are nothing new to me. But since I came to Switzerland in 1991, I can't remember a single power failure. The only time one doesn't have power here is when there is some maintenance to be done. Then every household receives a letter about three weeks before the date, informing you of the reason for the power interruption and the exact timing. This work is usually done between 9 and 11 in the morning or 2 to 4 in the afternoon so as not to interrrupt with breakfast, lunch or the evening. I know what some of you are thinking, but I am honestly not making this up!
Well, today there was a power failure in the whole of Switzerland. Nobody's perfect one could say. Well, it wasn't a power failure in households or offices. It happened to the Swiss railway system. The Swiss railway (SBB) is considered to be among the best in the world. Being Swiss, they are obviously very punctual. Well, not today.
At about 18:00 local time, the entire Swiss railway network collapsed due to a power failure. Obviously rush hour is the worst time for something like this to happen. An estimated 100'000 people were stranded for three hours or more. Unfortunately for me, I was one of the 100'000. It was the most serious breakdown in Swiss railway history.
I was on my way home from work, only about ten minutes from my station. Today those ten minutes turned out to be 150 minutes. Yeep, I was stranded for 2.5 hours. To make matters worse, the air conditioning obviously wasn't working. Personally I didn't really mind the waiting, it was the heat. Today we had temperatures of about 30 degrees celsius. You can imagine how hot it got in there before people were allowed to get off the train.
Those who were stranded at the big stations like Zurich, Geneva or Berne were "luckier" than us on the trains. Not only because they weren't stuck in hot trains, confined to a seat. As soon as the SBB guys realised how serious the problem was, they organised buses to transport the passengers and water for those who had to wait. Those like us who were caught in the middle of our journey had no water and had to watch packed buses pass by (or going to a different destination) while trying to get a lift (which is how I got home).
But you know what, I don't really think I can complain. Such things can happen anytime and I should be glad that I was "only" on my way home and didn't have a flight to catch or something. And the Swiss system really is usually very reliable and takes you to almost any part of the country. The prices may be relatively high, but I guess quality has its price.
Every year, SBB transports about 253 million passengers and 58 million tonnes of freight. SBB trains account for 87% of all passenger-km and 90% of tonne-km.