NO CLEARER signal could have been given. On November 29 the Swiss population voted by a majority of 63·5% to support a massive investment programme in their rail network. The Bern government now has a mandate to spend SFr30·5bn on rail projects over the next two decades, including the much debated AlpTransit base tunnels. The vote followed the September 27 referendum on levying taxes on transit lorries (RG 11.98 p747), and a positive outcome in the second vote was widely anticipated.

With the financing of the base tunnels assured, Swiss Federal Railways was able to authorise its project management company AlpTransit Gotthard AG to proceed with detailed planning and preparations. Tenders have already been called for preparatory works such as access roads and alterations to the track at Amsteg, and tenders for the five main construction contracts for the Gotthard base tunnel will be issued in the second half of this year; the main attack on the rock faces should start in 2000 or early 2001. BLS L