SBB train.

SWITZERLAND: Further expansion of the national rail network is envisaged in ambitious plans outlined in December by the transport ministry.

Following completion of the successful Bahn 2000 investment project, attention switched to a more limited programme of improvements to the rail network known as Zukünftigen Entwicklung der Bahninfrastruktur (RG 5.06 p256). ZEB received parliamentary approval on December 17, with SFr5·4bn authorised to pay for 28 upgrades and enhancements to Switzerland’s railway infrastructure in the period to 2030.

As part of ZEB, the transport ministry agreed to look at an additional package of rail infrastructure improvements, and outline details of what Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger dubbed ‘Bahn 2030’ were announced on December 19.

As with ZEB, funds are to come from FinöV, a fund set up specifically to pay for improvements to public transport infrastructure. FinöV currently consists of income from fees charged for lorries to transit Switzerland, a proportion of valued-added tax, plus a fuel tax which is hypothecated to the NEAT base tunnels. As it currently stands, FinöV will not suffice to cover all the future projects, and additional funding will have to be sought to cover the schemes in Bahn 2030.

Two broad options have been put forward for discussion with a view to the ministry drawing up a formal consultation paper by early 2010. Option 1 envisages investment totalling SFr21bn over a period of up to 25 years starting in 2017 - when the Gotthard base tunnel is likely to open - and continuing until around 2040, depending on the projects that are included.

Option 2 is less ambitious, with a total spend of SFr12bn. Whereas Option 1 would include substantial investment in urban and suburban projects, Option 2 would be limited to main line schemes, despite strong growth in local traffic in and around Swiss cities.

Included in the consultation paper will be several projects that will build on work scheduled to start under the ZEB programme. These include a third track from Genève to Lausanne, the Ligerzer tunnel along the north shore of the Bieler See, the Zimmerberg base tunnel, the Wisenberg tunnel providing a third route through the Jura, improvements to the access routes to the NEAT base tunnels, the Brüttener tunnel between Bassersdorf and Winterthur and a second Heitersberg tunnel. The tunnels add extra capacity, generally taking the form of cut-offs that permit journey time reductions on key routes.

During the rest of this year the ministry will assess the urgency of the projects with Swiss Federal Railways and examine what funding options may be available. After publication of the consultation paper, the government aims to have draft legislation completed by the end of 2010.

  • The canton of Valais has sanctioned proposals to improve car-carrier services through the Simplon tunnel and agreed to share equally the SFr10·6m cost of an additional train with SBB. This will be identical to the most recent car-carriers built for BLS services through the Lötschberg tunnel with the ability to carry lorries weighing up to 28 tonnes. Due to enter service by 2014, it will enable services to run at 60 min rather than 90 min intervals.