Switzerland is among the top ten ranking countries concerning infractructure. Still, the changing appearance of public service is a popular topic for discussion among the Swiss – not least after a recent people’s vote which rejected regulations for public service.
The aim was to examine the state of public service in villages off the agglomerations. Not in the mountains – things are different there – but just a few kilometres away from the main roads and train lines.
Photographing these overlooked villages revealed some weird features. On the other hand, the photos show sleepy villages so boring that I found it hard to keep an interest in the normality. Overall, the photos paint a somewhat skewed and one-sided picture, a prejudiced idea of abandoned post offices, restaurants, schools etc.
In rural areas, many small villages in Switzerland merged into larger communities sharing expenses for public service. One of the consequences are common schools for neighbouring villages – and kids travelling by bicycle or bus.
The village doctor is one of the iconic figures of rural infrastructure. According to a recent study, there will be a shortage of about 5’000 general practitioners in Switzerland over the next ten years.
Emigration to the cities? No, Zurich and Geneva are too expensive for many. Exodus from the cities? Neither. It’s a migration from the mountains to the agglomerations. Those staying in mountain villages are the elderly. Construction in the lowland booms.
A Volg store is the typical – and often only – village shop in Switzerland. Volg is a retail chain with its roots in 19th-century agricultural cooperatives.
Restaurants are an important part of life – culinary, socially, and in villages even politically. Even if they are not part of the World Bank’s infrastructure index, the density (and quality) of restaurants are an indicator of vitality of a community.
Besides delivering letters, Swiss Post also operates a dense bus network. Buses connect villages to towns with train stations. There is hardly any village that cannot be reached by train and bus.
Switzerland is famous for the punctuality of its trains. The timetables are a ingenious work of coordination allowing journeys with changing trains without delay. Although railway construction started relatively late in the 19th century, Switzerland’s railway network is one of the densest today. The face of train stations in rural Switzerland has changed: there is no station manager selling cardboard tickets anymore, and the wooden waiting rooms in the station buildings have been replaced by glass constructions.
Swiss Post is a company with 100% of its shares owned by the Swiss federation and the third largest employer in Switzerland. By provision, there has to be at least one letter box per village. In 2015, 95% of the population had access to a post office within 20 minutes. Swiss Post also operates a dense bus network connecting villages to towns and train stations.