‘Constitution violated’ in Alpine road-to-rail scheme

The target of a maximum of 650,000 annual transits by lorries across the Alps looks set to be missed Gaetan bally / KEYSTONE

By failing to implement legislation to protect the Alps from transit traffic – by shifting freight from road to rail – the government is violating the constitution, according to the Alpine Initiative Association. 

This content was published on February 24, 2015 minutes and agencies

On February 20, 1994, almost 52% of Swiss voters surprisingly accepted an initiative aimed at protecting the Alps from transit traffic. The result led to a change in transportation policy, but implementation has been disappointing, say the initiative’s supporters. 

Swiss legislation sets a ceiling of 650,000 annual transits by lorries, a limit to be achieved two years after the opening of the Gotthard base railway tunnel, which is expected in 2016. 

However, in November 2013 the government admitted this target would not be reached in time. In the first half of 2014 alone, 567,000 lorries crossed the Alps, according to the Federal Office of Transport. Full-year figures will not be available until the end of March. 

Watering down 

The Alpine Initiative Association received support from a study published on Tuesday by the Institute for European Law at the University of Fribourg. 

“The current volume of transit traffic crossing the Alps signifies a clear violation of the obligations – both constitutional as legal – as laid down in the initiative,” the study’s authors wrote. 

They added that they saw limited room for manoeuvre for extending the time period of the transfer – something the cabinet wants to look into. 

Jon Pult, president of the Alpine Initiative Association, warned against a further watering down of the law, saying this “would be the end of our efforts over past decades to move traffic from roads onto rail”. 

Laurent Seydoux, a member of the centrist Liberal Green Party who sits on the association’s board, said: “Instead of once again glossing over the lack of activity or even questioning the target, the cabinet should finally present a plan of concrete measures.”

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