Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Photography in the Swiss railway network

It’s not just the UK which is sensitive about photography in the public transport network: Switzerland’s national transport company SBB (CFF in French-speaking Switzerland or FFS in Italian-speaking Ticino) is well-known for over-anxious and suspicious security staff. Many friends and acquaintances through Flickr have had negative experiences when taking photos for private use in Swiss stations, being accosted and asked to stop taking pictures. The issue here in Switzerland is less related to terrorism and more to do with commercial implications, I suppose: photographing for commercial purposes on private land – which covers even the most open areas of the railway network – can lead to problems with the owners.

I’m planning a further photo session with a couple of friends in Zürich and, knowing how these kind of issues are viewed by the more officious security personnel, I decided to pre-empt the problem and ask the company what the official position is. By asking politely in writing for a clarification, I received the following response from a representative of the Media Relations team. (Highlighting mine.)

You do not require a permit to take photographs for private use in [these] stations. Hereby the special conditions from one of our photographers’ permits.
Please note the following conditions:
– You may only photograph in publically accessible areas.
– The usual operation of the railway may not be disturbed.
– Crossing the tracks and remaining in the area of the tracks is forbidden.
– You must follow the instructions of station and train personal as well as Securitrans railway police.
– SBB disavows itself of any responsibility for any accident which results from the non-observance of these instructions.

Original German text:
Für den privaten Gebrauch […] brauchen Sie keine Bewilligung um Fotoaufnahmen in diesen Bahnhöfen zu machen.
Ich sende Ihnen noch unsere Konditionen aus einer Fotobewilligung.
Bitte beachten Sie die folgenden Modalitäten und Konditionen:
– Es dürfen nur öffentlich zugängliche Standorte gewählt werden.
– Der Bahnbetrieb darf nicht gestört werden.
– Das Überqueren der Gleise und der Aufenthalt im Gleisbereich sind verboten.
– Die Anweisungen des Bahnhof- und Zugpersonals sowie der Securitrans Bahnpolizei sind zu befolgen.
– Für Unfälle, die aus der Nichtbeachtung dieser Anweisungen entstehen, übernimmt die SBB keine Haftung.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen
Noemy Heimann
Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB
Kommunikation – Medienstelle
Hochschulstrasse 6, 3000 Bern 65
Direkt +41 (0)51 220 30 64
Fax +41 (0)51 220 43 58

So, in short: if you want to take photos in a place in which photography may be restricted, writing to ask for permission in advance may save you a lot of stress and hassle. For those who require a much more detailed legal document in German, you can download one here:

Rechtmässigkeit der Nutzung von Bildern aus dem Internet, Urheberrechtliche Aspekte zum Recht am eigenen Bild: Rechtliche Fachbeurteilung von Lukas Fässler, Rechtsanwalt & Informatikexperte, Artherstrasse 23a, CH-6300 Zug

Update: as the email in my case may not have been accepted at face value, I asked for something more official and received this PDF from the media relations team earlier today. Also, there is advice on the SBB website to back up what I have written so far, in German and in English.

2 responses to “Photography in the Swiss railway network”

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