Behind the scenes

Trust is good, spot checks are better

Inspectors travel the entire RhB network, carrying out random checks. They recognise new passengers and long-standing RhB travellers. I find out what's important in their work and what they experience on a daily basis during a shift on the train.

Sandra Mayerhofer, Unternehmenskommunikation, 27. January 2023

“Good morning, can I see your ticket, please.” Early in the morning, ticket inspectors Sabine and Marcel greet the passengers on the train from Chur to Thusis. Compartment by compartment, they check the tickets and scan the SwissPasses. It doesn't take them long to check the whole train. There are no problems, all passengers have a valid ticket. For me, this looks like an easy start to the working day.

In the morning, the trains are full of commuters. They often have a GA travelcard, a Graubünden season ticket or point-to-point season ticket. That’s why it’s a quiet start. But that could change quickly.

Sometimes we check 400 passengers and there are no problems. Sometimes a train with 30 passengers already has several passengers without a valid ticket.

Sabine and Marcel check passengers’ tickets.

We change trains in Rhäzüns. Here is the first problem: one passenger cannot present a ticket. I’m curious to see how the situation develops. The passenger is friendly and pays the supplement of 100 Swiss francs directly in cash. Soon afterwards, there’s another passenger without a ticket. This time, all passenger data is recorded. He receives an invoice afterwards as he was unable to pay on the train.

We change trains several times and travel in different directions. While I constantly have to find my bearings, Sabine and Marcel always keep track of everything. They know the timetables and train-change options almost by heart.

The ticket inspectors write a report for every train they travel on once they have finished their work, recording details of what happened on that particular trip.

What fascinates me right from the start is the team spirit and mutual consideration. Sabine and Marcel are true team players who rely on each other and understand each other without having to say anything.

Facial expressions and gestures are important in our work. This way, we know from afar whether everything is okay or whether the other person needs help. We understand each other without speaking.

Ticket inspectors always work in twos. The shifts and the division of work are taken care of individually by each team. There are several teams in Chur and Engadin and there are regular changes to regular service as train guards.

I like the flexibility of my work and the fact that I travel a lot while I do it. The tasks are varied and the conversations and situations can be very challenging some days.

The smartphone has become an important companion. Digital tickets are on the rise in all categories, across all ages of passengers. Digitalisation has definitely changed the face of what we ticket inspectors do. The two of them agree on that.

Today, the majority of tickets are checked using a smartphone.

Tact is particularly important when dealing with passengers. I wonder how passengers behave when they are deliberately travelling without a valid ticket.

According to Sabine and Marcel, the behaviour differs. Some passengers are hectic and nervous, some remain calm, some show a “poker face” and have many reasons why they don’t have a ticket or have a fake one. Sabine remembers a passenger who claimed to have his ticket on his smartphone, but the battery was empty. At the same time, the charging cable was clearly visible in the outer pocket of the passenger’s backpack. Such situations make you smile.

Positive impressions predominate. Most passengers are friendly. But there are also difficult situations. And there are situations where the passenger is simply unlucky or I feel sorry for passengers. But we have our guidelines.

After many years of service, the two have developed a good sense of judgement for the passengers. They meet some people daily or several times a week. They already know by heart who has which ticket or who is a new face on the train. But the exciting thing is that you never know exactly what the day will bring. No two days are the same.

Travelling throughout Graubünden: Sandra Mayerhofer with Sabine and Marcel from the spot check team

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