New setback for Publibike: the PostBus subsidiary also expects wrong

The defective locks are not the only technical problem of Publibike. Many customers complain about excessive bills. There was also a growing question about why a government provider leases bikes at all.

Roger Brown

Publibike bikes are vulnerable: the lock was too easy to crack. (KEYSTONE / BRANKO DE LANG)

Publibike bikes are vulnerable: the lock was too easy to crack. (KEYSTONE / BRANKO DE LANG)

The public publisher of bicycle rental is going through difficult times. In Bern the subsidiary Postauto had to bring the bicycles to the depot after strangers had broken up hundreds of locks. In Zurich, the thieves are also killed and in six other cities the locks are not protected against theft.

Now it appears that Publibike has more technical problems. A former call center employee fired his anger about the many complaints from dissatisfied customers on an online platform. According to him, many customers pay too long a rental period because the station does not recognize that the bike is parked properly.

Lock remains closed – invoiced anyway

Publibike confirms the technical problems. With 400,000 trips since the launch of the new rental system in November last year, approximately 16,000 messages have been received by customer service, says spokeswoman Katharina Merkle. It is in more than half of the complaints about wrong accounts. Although Merkle relativizes that the locks were often not closed properly and that is why the lease was continued. But she also says: "There are also many cases that are actually due to a technical error of our system." Often it happens, for example, that customers log in correctly with their smartphones, but the lock does not open. In any case, the customer will be charged for the loan. Merkle praises improvement, "until the end of September we will perform a system update on all stations, which will solve the problem"

In light of the quarrels, the louder criticism of the policy on the deployment of the after-car subsidiary. "The technical problems make it clear that a state-owned company like Swiss Post does not do business with bicycle rental," says Berne & # 39; s FDP National Councilor Christian Wasserfallen, for example. He refers to private providers that have arisen in recent years and bear the business risk itself. For him, the Post with Publibike takes unnecessary financial risks and threatens fair competition. "In Bern, for example, private bicycle rental companies did not have a fair chance from the start," he says.

Competitors feel pressed against the wall

One of the private providers is Smide, formerly part of the Swiss Mobiliar Versicherung. In Zurich, Smide offers 250 e-bikes in the free-floating system. Unlike the Publibike stationary model, these bikes can be parked anywhere; free bikes can be located via the app. Smide feels discriminated against against the PostBus subsidiary. "Some cities protect Publibike and leave little room for the development of private offers," says Smide CEO Raoul Stöckle. It is known that the city of Bern has reserved two million francs for the introduction of the budget offer for the next five years. But for Stöckle this is only the tip of the iceberg. He says: "Many parking spaces created for Publibike are located at the best locations in the city, where other parking spaces are forbidden," says Stöckle.

Publibike collects losses

Finally, Stöckle also feels disadvantaged by Publibike's powerful parent, because the post office has financially supported her daughter for years. The precise scope is unclear, because the company does not publish business figures. From the research report to the subsidy competition of Postauto AG it appears that Publibike has written about 3.8 million francs of damage between 2012 and 2015. At that time, the company pursued the strategy to be present in as many cities as possible with small fleets. In the meantime, Publibike has streamlined the network considerably. There are many more stations and correspondingly more rental bikes in the individual cities. How this change has affected business, says Publibike. At the latest in three years' time, the company wants to be black in Bern and Zurich.

Stöckle understands that the cities decided four years ago for a stationary system. Nowadays, however, he sees clear advantages for the free-floating model thanks to the spread of smartphones. "Instead of awarding new models, cities stick to their outdated strategy and connect alternatives." Stöckle Smide would particularly like to offer in Bern. Since April he is waiting for a permit for the rental of e-bikes, while the Bern Transport Director Ursula Wyss does not make it a secret that she gives Publibike a special status. Stöckle says: "If the privilege of the state-owned provider goes on like this, you do not have to be surprised if the private providers withdraw."

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