SWITZERLAND: The Federal Council has put forward proposals for a further long-term programme of investment in the national rail network. In its session on June 22, the council published Perspektive Bahn 2050, a detailed plan for consultation that emphasises further development of short and medium distance passenger services and proposes significant changes to investment projects already in the pipeline, including full double tracking of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel.
Enhancement of the existing network to allow more intensive use is now seen as preferable to starting more major infrastructure projects. Transport Minister Simonetta Sommaruga underlined the change in policy: ‘it is not a question of saving a few minutes on a trunk route such as Zürich – Bern as rail is already unbeatable on routes like that. It is rather about expansion where rail has been left behind.’
Consultation on Bahn 2050 will conclude on October 14. The proposals will then feed into legislation, due to be passed in 2026, that will define further stages of the long-term national railway investment programme. Beyond that further legislation for major railway projects is envisaged in 2030.
Driving the council’s deliberations is the need for more action to combat climate change and the Swiss government’s target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Whereas the most recent assessment of long-term rail investment dating from 2012 was geared mainly towards easing bottlenecks and enhancing regular-interval services in the Swiss Taktfahrplan, the focus in Bahn 2050 switches to local and regional traffic. This is seen as offering the highest potential for achieving an increase in rail’s market share.
An overall target of increasing usage of public transport from 26 billion passenger-km to 38 billion by 2050 is proposed. To help bring this about the Council has set six objectives forBahn 2050:
- rail development plans must meet the aims of land use planning policies;
- rail services form part of the overall mobility and transport landscape and should be connected in a flexible and optimal way with services offered by other modes and providers;
- rail’s share of the passenger and freight market should increase significantly;
- rail operations should be climate-neutral and new railway infrastructure should be built to make best use of resources and integral with the landscape or built environment;
- rail services should be safe, punctual and reliable;
- efficiency gains through automation and new technologies should be adapted where possible.
Three scenarios affecting market share gains from other modes were examined. As a result specific measures for consideration in the light of the six formal objectives were defined as follows:
- expansion of S-Bahn services;
- new cross-city or tangential lines in conurbations;
- development of suburban stations with more calls from regional trains in the IR and RE categories, so avoiding travel to change trains in city centres;
- links from small or middle-sized towns to major conurbations;
- development of stations into transport hubs offering interchange to other modes and co-ordination with cycling and pedestrian routes;
- promotion of new forms of mobility such as car-sharing and pooling;
- targeted reductions in long-distance journey times where rail is not competitive with road;
- more frequent international passenger services and good connections with targeted journey time reductions.
Specific measures were also proposed for freight traffic:
- more intermodal terminals should be provided along both north-south and east-west corridors;
- more logistics facilities with optimal rail connections should be offered in large and middle-sized cities;
- targeted capacity improvements should be made along the east-west corridor.
In terms of funding, analysis of programmes already completed or still in progress reveals that the NEAT trans-Alpine tunnelling scheme and the upgrading of north-south corridors to accommodate 4 m high lorries on rail wagons fall within or below the agreed funding framework. Costs for the ZEB (Zukünftige Entwicklung der Bahninfrastruktur) infrastructure development programme are likely to significantly undershoot the authorised funding and a SFr590m downward adjustment to SFr4 810m is proposed.
On the other hand, funding for the Ausbauschritt 2025 and 2035 programmes looks to be insufficient to cover various projects including upgrading work in the Genève area; this will require an additional SFr330m in AS2025, taking the total to SFr6 730m.
For AS2035, an additional SFr500m is proposed to allow full double-tracking of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel to go ahead; this will avoid an eight-month closure as proposed under the previous plan for the tunnel. A further SFr480m is proposed to cover the costs of the Zimmerberg Base Tunnel, the Brüttener tunnel, rebuilding of Stadelhofen station and other projects. These will take the total funding needed for AS2035 to SFr13∙87bn.
Completion of projects in AS2035 is likely to be delayed by three to five years because of the complexity of certain schemes such as those in Genève and Bern. One of the issues to be resolved is the scale of infrastructure work that inevitably has an impact on existing services ― around 300 projects are envisaged in the ZEB programme, for example.
The additional costs are covered by the Rail Infrastructure Fund, and the Federal Council will seek legislative changes to allow the proposed changes to be made. In the meantime the Ministry of Transport will assess the feasibility of what is proposed for 2035 as part of the rolling planning process agreed in the FABI (Finanzierung und Ausbau der Bahninfrastruktur) proposals approved by referendum in 2014.