SWITZERLAND: Swiss Federal Railways has welcomed the result of a referendum on February 9 which saw voters approve a long-term strategy to finance and upgrade rail infrastructure.

SBB said the Finanzierung und Ausbau der Bahninfrastruktur strategy which was supported 62:38 on a 55% turnout would provide a solid foundation for investment and ensure sustained funding for the first time.

FABI comprises three elements: a single infrastructure fund, a strategic development programme, and the implementation of the first stage of this programme.

The BIF single rail infrastructure fund would finance operations, maintenance and upgrading, replacing a number of separate sources of funding which are currently managed by federal and cantonal governments. It is to be open-ended, in contrast to the time-limited funding for current projects.

The STEP strategic development programme would see upgrading projects totalling SFr42bn undertaken in phases over 40 years, with the federal council presenting individual projects to parliament at intervals of four to eight years. This is intended to offer greater flexibility and financial viability than an earlier Bahn 2030 proposal which envisaged a one-off package worth up to SFR21bn.

The SFr6·4bn list of projects forming the first phase of STEP running to 2025 includes: half-hourly services from Zürich to Lugano, Chur and Aarau, as well as Lugano - Locarno and Bern - Luzern; a reduction in Bern - Lausanne journey times; expansion of S-Bahn services around Bern, Basel and Genève; guaranteed freight capacity in the Genève, Lausanne and Neuchâtel - Biel/Bienne areas; and funding to eliminate various bottlenecks.