Road-to-rail policy to miss goals

The government says the country’s targets for a substantial reduction in the number of heavy trucks crossing the Alps will not be reached.

This content was published on December 16, 2011 - 12:37 and agencies

In a statement on Friday, the cabinet said there would be 250,000 more trucks this year than the goal of 1 million, and that the target of a maximum of 650,000 trucks by 2018 was unrealistic.

Swiss voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1994 introducing the 650,000 limit. It was to have come into force in 2009 and was later postponed to 2018 – two years after the opening of the Gotthard Base rail tunnel.

At the time of the vote, the Swiss rallied around inhabitants of alpine valleys who considered trucks as a major risk to the environment and their health, since harmful emissions are trapped by the valley walls.

One aim of building the tunnel along with the other major transalpine rail link, the Lötschberg tunnel - which opened in 2007 - was to transfer freight from road to rail in order to achieve the targets.

In its statement, the government said however that if it had not been for the opening of the Lötschberg, increased fees for transalpine vehicles and the liberalisation of rail freight, there would be 600,000 more trucks crossing the Alps each year than there are today.

It added that additional measures will be needed to improve the attractiveness of rail, but only a hefty hike in truck fees – which agreements with the European Union do not allow – would enable Switzerland to achieve its 2018 target.

In 2010, there was an increase in both road and rail freight, with rail taking 64.1 per cent of the total as opposed to 62.6 per cent the previous year.

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