The history of Swiss Post
A journey through time from 1849 to the present day
Swiss Post: how it all began
The newly established federal state unifies – and improves – the postal system. The Swiss federal postal service replaces the cantonal postal administrations. From this point on, it is responsible for transporting letters, parcels, people and cash remittances.
First postage stamps valid throughout Switzerland
While individual cantons have been issuing postage stamps since the 1840s, federal stamps now arrive on the market. They allow Swiss Post to collect postage from the sender, not the recipient.
The Railway Mail Service is introduced
From the 1850s, the backbone of postal transport is the Railway Mail Service. Mail is sorted en route in specially designated carriages. Before the introduction of postcodes, this work requires very good knowledge of geography and the PTT transport system.
Switzerland is the fourth country in the world to introduce the postcard. The postage costs just half that of a letter. As tourism takes off, the following decades see a veritable boom in postcards.
International postal traffic
The founding of the Universal Postal Union in Bern in 1874 is followed by the negotiation of a Universal Postal Convention. Switzerland is heavily involved in the founding. International postal traffic is transported by rail and ship. After the Second World War, the aeroplane becomes an important means of transport.
First Swiss Post building boom
Around 26 monumental Swiss Post buildings are built in cantonal capitals and other large towns. With both its large and small post office buildings, Swiss Post represents the new federal state in all regions of Switzerland.
Between civilian and military
Field post is established. Its basic mandate: to provide postal services for the army and its troops, serving as a bridge between civilian and military life.
Payment transactions via Swiss Post
Swiss Post is assigned a “Postcheque and giro service”. Thanks to its dense network of 4,000 operating locations, it offers ideal conditions for this. In principle, anyone can now open an account and make cashless transfers.
Swiss Post in motion – the first Postbus
The first automobile mail route connects Bern with Detligen. The distinctive “toot-to-tooot”, however, is not heard until years later.
Swiss Post as intermediary during the world wars
Working with the Red Cross, Swiss Post carries several hundred million postage-free consignments from prisoners of war and internees. And after the mobilizations of 1914 and 1939, the volume of Swiss military mail skyrockets – postage-free field post accounts for up to 25 percent of domestic letters.
1920 to 1998
Postal, telephone and telegraphy services – the PTT
Together for over 70 years: in the 1920s, Swiss Post is merged with the telephone and telegraphy service to form the PTT. From 1998, the two halves of the service go their separate ways as Swiss Post and Swisscom Ltd.
Certificates and uniforms
Once Swiss Post, always Swiss Post: in the days of the PTT, most postal staff are civil servants and remain loyal to their employer until retirement. An important basis for this is the 1927 Swiss civil service code (Beamtengesetz (BtG)). All work processes are governed by detailed regulations. It is only in 1998 that civil servant status is rescinded.
The PTT brand
Postal services and telegraphy/telephony are merged into a single brand, represented jointly by a square coat-of-arms logo. The Swiss Confederation officially allows the PTT to use the Swiss cross. “Swiss Post yellow” is not mandatory until 1939. Before then, it is used mainly on mail coaches and Postbuses.
Last horse coach service
The last horse coach service on the Avers–Juf route is discontinued. This is signification for the comprehensive rationalization of postal operations introduced in the 1960s.
Introduction of postcodes
Postcodes are introduced on 1 October 1964, leading to a massive simplification of sorting. From this point on, in-depth geographical knowledge is no longer required. The postcode system forms the basis for the later introduction of automatic sorting.
Management careers become more accessible
A management career at Swiss Post is now also open to women. In 1974, the first women start work at the male-dominated Railway Mail Service, which is seen as the PTT’s training ground for new managers.
Easy cash withdrawals at Postomats
The first Postomat comes into service at the Bern Schanzenpost post office.
Introduction of A and B Mail
Two speeds, two prices: the customer can decide. An A Mail letter initially costs 80 centimes and is processed within one day, while a B Mail letter costs 50 centimes and is delivered within two to four days.
The Fraumünster post office robbery
September 1997, Fraumünster post office in Zurich: five young men drive a delivery van into the post office courtyard and steal 53 million francs in just four minutes.
The end of the PTT
The PTT is dissolved and split up into Swiss Post and Swisscom Ltd, marking the end of more than 70 years of shared history.
Introduction of yellownet (e-finance)
Swiss Post harnesses the opportunities afforded by increasing digitization – whether for its internal work processes or for new services. In 1998, PostFinance launches “yellownet”, making it one of the pioneers of electronic asset management.
Restructuring of Swiss Post’s branch network
Customers’ habits are changing: fewer and fewer letters and parcels are being dropped off at post offices, and the number of over-the-counter inpayments is falling. A reduction from 3,500 to 2,500 post offices is planned.
CEC for Swiss Post staff
After almost two years of intensive negotiations between Swiss Post and its social partners, the Swiss Post collective employment contract (CEC) is signed and implemented on 1 January 2002. Prior to this, employment conditions for Swiss Post staff had been governed by the Swiss civil service code (Beamtengesetz (BtG)).
Deregulation of the parcel and letter market
On 1 January 2004, the parcel market in Switzerland is deregulated. In 2006, the monopoly protection for letters weighing over 100 grams is removed. Three years later, monopoly protection is further reduced so that it applies only to letters of up to 50 grams.
Three large letter centers
The Härkingen letter center starts operations, following the letter centers in Zurich-Mülligen and Eclépens. This marks the completion of the largest project in Swiss Post’s history. All aspects of letter processing have been redesigned.
On the way to climate neutrality
From 2012, Swiss Post offsets carbon emissions from domestic letter mail. And from the beginning of 2017, all of its approximately 6,000 two- and three-wheeled delivery vehicles are battery-powered. Efforts to reduce environmental pollution, particularly in the mobility sector, date back to the 1990s.
The PostBus subsidy affair
PostBus Switzerland Ltd hits the headlines as it emerges that its accounting practices between 2007 and 2018 did not comply with subsidy law. PostBus reimburses the injured parties – the Confederation, cantons, municipalities – for the amounts lost, in full and with interest. In addition, PostBus makes voluntary repayments for illegitimately received subsidies that have already lapsed under law. This represents a major step for Swiss Post in rectifying the matter and is a fundamental requirement for a fresh start.
Swiss Post during the coronavirus crisis
As a result of the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular due to the steep rise in online retail, Swiss Post delivers more parcels than ever before: 182.7 million – an all-time record.