Swiss rail tunnel relies on German, Italy progress: official

15th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A senior Swiss official warned on Friday that the promise of the world's longest railway tunnel through central Switzerland would also depend on what happens on either end, in neighbouring Italy and Germany.

"For a noticeable amount of freight to be shifted from road to rail, our neighbouring countries Germany and Italy will have to fulfill their contractual obligation to extend access routes," said Peter Fueglistaler, director of the government's Federal Transport Office.

"Switzerland itself has sufficient capacity up to 2030," he told journalists.

Tunnel workers on Friday broke through the 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) long Gotthard base tunnel through the foot of the Alps, which is due to enter service by 2017.

Although the near 10 billion Swiss franc (7.0 billion euro) railway tunnel is Swiss, it has fast taken on a continental dimension with the aim of unclogging one of the main north-south commercial routes between Germany and Italy.

The Swiss are aiming to shift transiting truck freight off congested roads onto rail because of environmental concern about the Alps.

Fueglistaler noted that some German rail expansion plans were well advanced, but held up by popular opposition in southwestern Germany, while Italian projects were still at the planning stage.

For the shift of trucks onto rail to succeed, "close international coordination and cooperation are required", he added.

He said transport ministers from Alpine countries were evaluating "various control instruments" for heavy goods traffic in the region, and should decide in about a year which should be pursued.

© 2010 AFP

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