These sparks stand for punctuality

Thousands of trains travel on the Swiss rail network every day. The maintenance of the tracks is the responsibility of Sersa Switzerland, among others, whose professionals often take care of the necessary maintenance and extension work at night. Because much of the work has to be carried out in remote locations, a car is indispensable. For the punctual execution of all orders, the company uses rental cars from Hertz.

As is well known, punctuality is part of good manners in Switzerland, especially in public transport. Even the country's largest public transport operator by far — SBB — can boast a punctuality rate of 91.9 per cent (evaluation 2021). This figure is all the more impressive when you know that a train that arrives at its destination more than three minutes later than planned is immediately classified as late by the SBB. Other countries have far greater tolerances here and nevertheless have much lower punctuality rates.

More than three minutes late and a train is classified as late.

What makes it possible for the railway in Switzerland to be so punctual? There are countless little cogs that have to interact perfectly. For one thing, a lot depends on the timetable, which is calculated down to the smallest detail. In addition, there are numerous dedicated employees in various functions and areas — from the marshalling yard to the engine driver's cab to the control centre — without whose professionalism such fabulous figures would be unimaginable. And, of course, reliable rolling stock is needed, i.e. trains, which are also procured and maintained by professionals.

Another key component for the punctuality of our railways is the rail network. So that it always facilitates smooth rail traffic despite the immense loads, maintenance, repair and renewal work is in principle continuous. This work is often carried out in the background or, more accurately, in the dark, which is why only a few people notice it. "It is somewhat our fate that we and our work are only perceived as a side note, if at all," says Rolf von Känel. He works for Sersa Group AG (Switzerland), the largest railways contractor for the maintenance and expansion of the rail network in Switzerland.

Rolf von Känel coordinates the work assignments of Sersa employees for railway operators and thus has daily contact with the professionals. "But I never have to comfort them because they are just the hidden heroes, so to speak," he says with a smile. Those who work in this sector value the exceptionally good teamwork and the fact that they can see what they have achieved. And of course, it also helps to enjoy working at night. "For safety reasons, our work mainly takes place when as few trains as possible are running," explains Rolf von Känel, and adds that there is also something very satisfying about this night work, because "after all, we have time off when the others are working."

Rolf von Känel, Sersa Group AG (Switzerland)

Sersa Switzerland employs about 1200 people at its 15 locations. Most of them work at their respective construction sites, which requires some organisation in terms of their getting there. It's almost a bit of a paradox, but they don't usually get to their destination by public transport. "On the one hand, there are no trains or buses running in the middle of the night during the week, and on the other hand, the job sites are often far away from stops and stations," says Rolf von Känel. So Sersa Switzerland really can't do without motor vehicles — namely minibuses with up to nine seats and passenger cars. The required machines and equipment, however, can almost always be transported by rail.

Although the work takes place along the rails, it cannot be done without motor vehicles.

Sersa Switzerland takes an extremely sustainable approach to fleet management. All the vehicles are bought and driven for as long as possible. "We only order new vehicles when it is absolutely necessary. Because every new vehicle that is built causes a lot of emissions during production, regardless of the drive type," emphasises Rolf von Känel. If a fleet vehicle breaks down unexpectedly, Sersa is happy working together with Hertz. "Like in our entire DNA, here too it's about punctuality. When we reserve vehicles with Hertz, they are ready on time or, in urgent cases, delivered just as punctually.  We really value this reliability," says Rolf von Känel.

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