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Old 08.06.2016, 16:44
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Appealing a train fine?

Has anybody ever had any success appealing an SBB train fine, and does anyone have any tips on how to go about it? I think I have a reasonable explanation for why I fell foul of the rules yesterday and am hoping that I might be able to plead for some leniency from the authorities.

The situation: Yesterday I was travelling with my mother who is visiting me in Zurich for a few days. She is significantly disabled with Multiple Sclerosis and cannot walk very well at all - her legs are weak and inflexible, and she suffers from fatigue after activity. She has a stair-lift at home and finds steps especially difficult to deal with.

I took her out to Mount Rigi to see the Alps, and although the whole journey was by train even the small amounts of walking to change trains etc with the aid of a stick in one hand and my arm in the other had left her severely fatigued by the time we were changing trains at Zug on the way home.

The train was at the station and about to leave, so I caught the guard's eye as I helped my mum along the platform. He seemed to gesture that we should enter the first available door (first class) and make our way down inside the train once boarded (in hindsight this may have been a miscommunication and he might merely have been indicating that we still had time to board the train - but my understanding at the time was that he was showing us to enter at the first door we came to, next to him, so that he could ensure we got aboard before he gave the driver the all clear to leave).

Once in the train we were making our way down towards the second class area when we came across three or four steps going up to the raised level for the next carriage. Big problem for us - by this point my mum was about ready to collapse after the exertion of walking around the train station and she couldn't face tackling these steps, and the train had now started moving and I was worried about her falling over. So I decided that we should sit down where we were in first class with our second class tickets and explain to the ticket guard why we couldn't get through to the correct area. I hoped he would understand the situation, given he had seen how poorly mum was moving along the platform, and that she had a walking stick etc.

I assumed wrong. The guard was a very young and I think inexperienced guy who couldn't speak English - so as I tried to explain he immediately called over his more senior colleague. This older guy took an aggressive and disciplinarian tone from the beginning, and was demanding 75CHF to upgrade our tickets, and he simply was not interested in having a discussion. As he was not in the mood to compromise, with great difficulty I helped mum get up the steps to move into second class, sat her down and went back to talk to the guards who had taken my SwissPass card.

But they were still demanding 75CHF and got very angry with me when I tried to explain my mum's condition and why we got stuck by the steps before getting to the 2nd class area, but his English was limited and unfortunately I don't speak any German so we weren't getting anywhere. I refused to hand over any money so he took my address details and printed off a notice saying that I owe 75CHF. I am now expecting to receive a bill for a fine in the post.

Needless to say that was quite a sour note to end an otherwise lovely day. What do you think of my chances of getting the fine excused, given the circumstances? And how best to proceed (especially given that I can't speak German) : Should I wait for the letter from SBB, or proactively make first contact myself? And would it be better to write to them, or to speak in person at the Zurich HB customer services?

Thanks for any advice.
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:06
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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So I decided that we should sit down where we were in first class with our second class tickets
...

This older guy ... was demanding 75CHF to upgrade our tickets, and he simply was not interested in having a discussion.
What was there to discuss? From his perspective it would have been of absolutely zero importance why you chose to sit in first class, and I'm guessing that by this stage you'd already been protesting, refusing to pay the perfectly valid charge, so he's unlikely to be interested in wastig yet more time listening to your sob story again.

Am I being harsh? Well, maybe, but it's what the ticket inspector would have been thinking.
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:13
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

What kind of train was it? If it's IC, ICN or IR then you don't have to pay the supplement (i.e. a fine) but only the cost for upgrading to first class.

They also say on the SBB website that disabled people are exempt from paying supplements.

See: https://www.sbb.ch/en/station-servic...rmationen.html
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:14
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

Definitely appeal this.

In my experience the appeal people are generally quite understanding.

they won't let you off the hook altogether but the odds are good that they will reduce the amount.
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:20
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

Summary:


You sat in 1st class with a 2nd class ticket, guard asks for payment you say no, argue, then move, and he issues ticket. Sounds harsh but he's right, and you going into 2nd class at the start, and not making your way through 1st into 2nd would have been the obvious solution to avoid any hassle. These guys get all the fare dodgers and all the excuses, lack of language skills to explain didn't help, and his job is to ensure people have a valid ticket... and unfortunately you didn't.

You may get somewhere if you can show your mums disability badge at a main SBB office together with your Swisspass and the fine, but I wouldn't bank on it.
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:49
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

You mention both a fine and the fee to upgrade to 1st class. Make sure you're clear on which it is before you try to appeal. But appeal promptly, as you generally have just a few days.

How long were you sitting in 1st class before the inspector came? If it was just a few minutes, then you might be able to explain it was just until she was rested, and you did in fact move her. If you'd been sitting there for half an hour then it's a tougher argument.
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:54
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

If she has any disability ID it would definitely help your case - make sure you get a copy of anything she has before she leaves. People with a disability who reside in Switzerland can apply for an SBB disability card which exempts them from paying for any ticket at all - or the person travelling with them if the disabled person actually does have a ticket - so the SBB are very generous on the whole to persons with disabilties
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Old 08.06.2016, 17:55
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

It's worth a go especially if you'd only been there a little while.
I wrote an appeal letter in French for a friend who had a similar situation which was successful. She only had to pay a 5chf admin fee.
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Old 08.06.2016, 21:11
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

just some tips when you appeal

- leave out all the stuff about you arguing with the inspector. Nobody likes argumentative people. Just say you explained the situation but he insisted you pay anyhow

- as others have pointed out, get your story straight. You can appeal a fine but its more tricky to appeal an increased fare, especially if you did actually travel in a first class seat. Make sure you know what it is that you payed and don't pretend its something else

- back up your appeal with documents proving the invalidity of your mother

- say you don't understand German very well and are not familiar with the Swiss train system, and there may have been a misunderstanding between the inspector and yourself, but under no conditions imply you were treated unfairly or that anybody did it on purpose.
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Old 08.06.2016, 22:24
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

I've had experience with this and my appeal was turned down. Mind you, I appealed to the SOB (train company, not person) who is in need of every Rappen they can get their hands on.

Here's my rather long story:

I had one of those days one would not like to repeat two years ago. I got swiped by a tram in Zürich and was abruptly knocked over. Luckily, besides a bleeding elbow, I had no other injuries so I continued on. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate the shock and ten minutes later I fainted in front of the Manor cosmetic counter. After a few minutes, I woke up to a beautiful young woman holding my head and another woman taking my pulse. They quickly put me in a wheelchair and rolled me over to the clinic to get a full check up. After receiving a clean bill of health and being neatly bandaged up, I was sent home. Still a bit dazed, I got into an SOB train and, not noticing any difference between first and second class, sat in the wrong section. As luck would have it, a conductor came by and promptly fined me. I desperately tried to explain my situation using Swiss German and even showed him my receipt from the clinic but the guy was heartless. I sent a letter of appeal but to no avail.

Perhaps you'll have more luck with the SBB. I've heard they are more lenient in cases like yours especially since they're trying to improve their rather tarnished reputation of being overly harsh.

Good luck!
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Old 08.06.2016, 22:45
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

You sat in first class because your mother couldn't make it to 2nd class ..... and the moment it cost Fr. 75.00 your mother could make it after all. What is the controller supposed to make of that?
You should have payed the upgrade and let your mother enjoy the comfort of first class.

You can appeal the fine and state, that you only sat there for a few minutes for your mother to recover a bit before going on to second class. Don't tell it to them like you told us. If there are documents to proof your mothers disability even better.
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Old 08.06.2016, 22:55
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

Are the ticket inspectors harsher in the German-speaking part? I have witnessed several such incidents here in which they are friendly (yet firm), even joking. In one incident, an inspector did not impose a fine or even take down the details from a group of ticketless passengers (who did seem rather unlikely to have money). Another time, someone visiting me was travelling in the IC first class (totally unaware- the second-class train carriages in their country have red seats!) and was merely shown the direction to the second-class carriages.

I am sorry this happened to you, OP. Hopefully, with all of the good pointers on this thread, you will be able to successfully overturn the fine.
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Old 08.06.2016, 23:00
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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You sat in first class because your mother couldn't make it to 2nd class ..... and the moment it cost Fr. 75.00 your mother could make it after all. What is the controller supposed to make of that?
That it was technically possible, but very difficult or painful due to a disability.

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What was there to discuss? From his perspective it would have been of absolutely zero importance why you chose to sit in first class
I don't know what this even means apart from that it is a truism. Of course from his perspective the lady's disability was irrelevant, hence the ticket. I think the thread is about whether that should have been his perspective and whether anyone more senior might have a different perspective.

Last edited by porsch1909; 08.06.2016 at 23:26.
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Old 08.06.2016, 23:09
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

I hope your appeal is successful. I find it ridiculous that an inspector is not able to use his judgement in such a situation.
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Old 08.06.2016, 23:46
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

Thanks everybody for your helpful input.

To be clear (if my tale wasn't already long enough!) we were on the train for just a couple of minutes before the guard spoke to us; we were of course in the first carriage and by the entrance where the guard started his inspection round.

Yes, after those few minutes my mum was just about capable to get up the few steps into the next carriage with my help, but at the time we were getting on the train after walking through the train station she wasn't able to at all. MS is a complicated and difficult condition like that. I don't expect the ticket guards to understand this, especially with my inability to explain in their language, but I do hope that SBB will be able to show some sympathy retrospectively when I can give the documentary evidence of her condition etc.
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Old 09.06.2016, 08:07
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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I hope your appeal is successful. I find it ridiculous that an inspector is not able to use his judgement in such a situation.
The problem is that "judgment" is open to abuse - where is the point when a reason becomes good enough to warrant not needing to abide by the rules.

Switzerland has chosen to remove the judgment element and have rules being rules. For those coming from the US and UK this can seem harsh or aggressive. The most obvious case for this is in the enforcement of speeding.
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Old 09.06.2016, 08:22
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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The problem is that "judgment" is open to abuse - where is the point when a reason becomes good enough to warrant not needing to abide by the rules.

Switzerland has chosen to remove the judgment element and have rules being rules. For those coming from the US and UK this can seem harsh or aggressive. The most obvious case for this is in the enforcement of speeding.
But...genuinely asking here....isn't speeding always wrong? I mean, there's nearly never a judgement call there (unless maybe you can prove you were speeding to hospital). A person on the ground, looking at an exhausted woman with MS can use judgement, and certainly should. Moreover, from posts on EF, we know it has.
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Old 09.06.2016, 08:37
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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But...genuinely asking here....isn't speeding always wrong? I mean, there's nearly never a judgement call there (unless maybe you can prove you were speeding to hospital). A person on the ground, looking at an exhausted woman with MS can use judgement, and certainly should. Moreover, from posts on EF, we know it has.
The inspector is faced with 2 exhausted women - the first one has MS, the second doesn't. Do both get fined? Neither?
If you "allow" an exhausted woman with MS not to pay the upgrade/fine then who else? The mother with pushchair, baby and screaming toddler?

As soon as you allow "judgment" you create a system with variance where one person will fine the passenger and the next won't. Is that then more or less unfair than sticking to the rules?

(Heading off on a slight tangent with this - I was working with clients on an allocation system - where financial records were assigned to buckets for reporting purposes. We modeled up their known "rules" and everyone was happy with the results. Business then spent days allocating the unallocated lines, and reallocating wrongly allocated lines. "We've always done this, you have to use your judgment to know which line goes where". "Hang on a minute," I responded "If you are using your judgment you are making a decision to allocate"
"Yes, but it is never that simple"
"Show me"
And so we walked through it - and none of them were judgment calls - they were all logical decisions. The fact 3,500 of them had to be put together to fully allocate all the records is besides the point, every record could be allocated without judgment.)

Returning to the point, there are 2 rule based choices available:
1) Sit in 1st class and pay the penalty
2) Sit in 2nd class

Now, to show I'm not a cold hearted dictator I shall show my softer side. On IC/ICN trains heading into Zurich 1st Class is at the front of the train (for obvious reasons), perhaps the SBB would allow registered disabled people (and perhaps 1 accompanying adult) to travel 1st class with a zero cost upgrade?
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Old 09.06.2016, 08:56
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

This is a tale of a jobsworth behaving like a jobsworth. Definitely worth appealing.

It really depends on how the conductor is, a normal guy would have appreciated the situation and allowed you the time to move to second class.

When a friend of mine was visiting once he took the train from the airport into Zürich. When the inspector looked at his ticket and said, "one, you're sat in first class, and two, you've bought the wrong ticket for this trip". He could have been a dick about it but just showed him through to second class and told him to get the correct ticket for the return journey. He obviously saw he was a tourist and this was a genuine mistake.
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Old 09.06.2016, 08:57
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Re: Appealing a train fine?

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Has anybody ever had any success appealing an SBB train fine, and does anyone have any tips on how to go about it? I think I have a reasonable explanation for why I fell foul of the rules yesterday and am hoping that I might be able to plead for some leniency from the authorities.

The situation: Yesterday I was travelling with my mother who is visiting me in Zurich for a few days. She is significantly disabled with Multiple Sclerosis and cannot walk very well at all - her legs are weak and inflexible, and she suffers from fatigue after activity. She has a stair-lift at home and finds steps especially difficult to deal with.

I took her out to Mount Rigi to see the Alps, and although the whole journey was by train even the small amounts of walking to change trains etc with the aid of a stick in one hand and my arm in the other had left her severely fatigued by the time we were changing trains at Zug on the way home.

The train was at the station and about to leave, so I caught the guard's eye as I helped my mum along the platform. He seemed to gesture that we should enter the first available door (first class) and make our way down inside the train once boarded (in hindsight this may have been a miscommunication and he might merely have been indicating that we still had time to board the train - but my understanding at the time was that he was showing us to enter at the first door we came to, next to him, so that he could ensure we got aboard before he gave the driver the all clear to leave).

Once in the train we were making our way down towards the second class area when we came across three or four steps going up to the raised level for the next carriage. Big problem for us - by this point my mum was about ready to collapse after the exertion of walking around the train station and she couldn't face tackling these steps, and the train had now started moving and I was worried about her falling over. So I decided that we should sit down where we were in first class with our second class tickets and explain to the ticket guard why we couldn't get through to the correct area. I hoped he would understand the situation, given he had seen how poorly mum was moving along the platform, and that she had a walking stick etc.

I assumed wrong. The guard was a very young and I think inexperienced guy who couldn't speak English - so as I tried to explain he immediately called over his more senior colleague. This older guy took an aggressive and disciplinarian tone from the beginning, and was demanding 75CHF to upgrade our tickets, and he simply was not interested in having a discussion. As he was not in the mood to compromise, with great difficulty I helped mum get up the steps to move into second class, sat her down and went back to talk to the guards who had taken my SwissPass card.

But they were still demanding 75CHF and got very angry with me when I tried to explain my mum's condition and why we got stuck by the steps before getting to the 2nd class area, but his English was limited and unfortunately I don't speak any German so we weren't getting anywhere. I refused to hand over any money so he took my address details and printed off a notice saying that I owe 75CHF. I am now expecting to receive a bill for a fine in the post.

Needless to say that was quite a sour note to end an otherwise lovely day. What do you think of my chances of getting the fine excused, given the circumstances? And how best to proceed (especially given that I can't speak German) : Should I wait for the letter from SBB, or proactively make first contact myself? And would it be better to write to them, or to speak in person at the Zurich HB customer services?

Thanks for any advice.
Sorry what you have been thru yesterday.
My understanding, it is not a penalty right? It is only the fee of upgrading your ticket ?
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