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More Swiss funds in prospect

01 Mar 2002

ON MARCH 8 the Swiss government approved draft legislation covering the second phase of the ambitious Bahn 2000 programme, auguring further development of the national rail network. At the same time it set the financial parameters for a performance contract with Swiss Federal Railways to cover the period from 2003 to 2006, requiring parliament to authorise expenditure of just over SFr6bn. Approval for this spend is expected in the autumn, allowing the contract to take effect from January 1 2003. Included is SFr1·9bn for infrastructure costs, SFr3·6bn for renewals and modernisation, and SFr525m for network enhancements, mainly to handle growing suburban traffic in major cities and increase capacity on the north-south transit freight routes.

There are no surprises in the performance contract, which requires SBB to support the strategic objective of switching traffic from road to rail and to develop infrastructure to ensure that services run punctually and reliably; SBB must also guarantee discrimination-free access for third- party operators. Loss-making wagonload freight and regional passenger services will qualify for grants, but other services must be profitable.

Of particular interest in the renewals spend is a government commitment to begin implementation of the European Train Control System. ETCS will initially be limited to new lines, the two base tunnels and their access routes, but the transport ministry confirmed on March 20 that in the long term ETCS will be applied on the whole SBB network. Excluded from the 2003-06 funding is an additional SFr130m to pay for associated cab signalling equipment.

Funding for projects to be included in Stage 2 of the Bahn 2000 programme will be separate. Schemes in Stage 2 will fall into three categories: public transport improvements in major cities, refinement and enhancement of the hub concept for inter-city services, and expansion of capacity for freight traffic. Public transport is to be developed where demand is highest and the market is most favourable, and SBB is already working with the cantons and other transport operators to define basic service levels. Among routes identified for enhancements are Bern - Lausanne and Zürich - St Gallen. A new Jura tunnel is proposed, and capacity on the access routes to the base tunnels is to be increased, both on the north and south Gotthard approach lines and between Bern and Thun. A second Heitersberg tunnel will improve east-west traffic flows, and capacity improvements are to be made between Zürich and Winterthur. S-Bahn networks are to be developed with the cantons in Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Luzern, St Gallen, Genève and in the Ticino.

Parliamentary backing for the Stage 2 package is expected in summer 2003, which would allow final decisions to be taken in 2004-05. This would permit the first phase of works to begin around 2010, with completion targeted for 2020.

Last year SBB carried a record 304·2 million passenger journeys, corresponding to 13·3 billion passenger-km. Domestic traffic was up by 6%, with an average of 41 trips per head of population. Although freight was affected by the downtown in the world economy at the end of last year, SBB's 10·5 billion tonne-km was the second highest on record, only slightly down on 2000.