Trains take on more cargo – but Swiss target will still be missed

There's still no sign of when rail freight will push truck journeys through Switzerland below 650,000 per year. Keystone

Railways continue to shoulder an increasingly higher burden of freight through the Swiss Alps compared to road transport, but the government confirmed that it will miss targets set by a 1994 initiative, which demanded that fewer trucks come through Switzerland.

This content was published on December 1, 2017 - 15:28

Freight trucks make 975,000 trips through Switzerland each year, according to a survey released on Friday. That’s a fall of 5.6% in the period measured, between July 2015 and June 2017. At the same time, rail freight traffic grew 18.8%, reaching a market share of 71% by the end of last year. That’s almost three times as much freight travelling through the Alps by rail than by road.

Last year saw the transalpine rail network further upgraded with the opening of the Gotthard base rail tunnel. But the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive body, confirmed its previous statement that this will still not be enough to reach the initiative’s demands of no more than 650,000 freight truck trips by the end of 2018. It did not give any indication of when this target could be achieved.

Further rail network upgrades are in the pipeline, however, including at the Luino section linking Switzerland and Italy. This has temporarily reduced the amount of freight that can be transported on this section due to construction work. Once complete, the Swiss authorities will monitor increases in capacity.

The Federal Council also called for further cooperation with neighbouring countries to better maintain logistics routes. Earlier this year, the critical Rhine Valley rail route was severely disrupted when part of a tunnel in Germany caved in.

This resulted in an increase of up to 1,000 truck journeys through Switzerland, but companies took the sting out of the problem by efficiently managing their warehouses. However, the Federal Council noted that international cooperation needed to be tightened to better protect against such instances in future.

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