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Swiss Railway Infrastructure Projects Progressing Well

The Swiss Federal Office of Transport (BAV) has published its progress report on the railway development programmes. It presents updates about important Swiss railway infrastructure projects.

Swiss train in the Gotthard Base Tunnel
Train in the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a major Swiss railway infrastructure project and part of the NRLA © SBB CFF FFS

They are: the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA, Neue Eisenbahn-Alpentransversale – NEAT), high-speed rail links, the Future Development of the Railway Infrastructure (ZEB) programme, the 4-metre corridor and the Development Phase 2025 (Ausbauschritt 2025). The report also provides insights into the status of works relating to noise reduction, the introduction of the European Train Control System ETCS and major projects such as CEVA and the new Albula Tunnel.

All of these programmes are making good progress.

Additional Rail Services

By expanding the rail network, Switzerland can introduce additional train services step-by-step. The most significant improvements took place last year as part of the 4th partial expansion of the S-Bahn Zurich and the first stage of the Léman Express in the Geneva region. It was the infrastructure developments within the ZEB programme and the construction of CEVA in Geneva that largely made these successes possible.

It is also thanks to the ZEB programme that double-decker trains can now run on the main line through the Valais canton (Lausanne-Martigny-Brig). Since the new timetable came into effect in December, the reinstatement of the Delle-Belfort line as part of the programme to connect more places to the  high-speed network has benefited Swiss passengers in that they have now got direct connections to the TGVs in Belfort-Montbéliard.

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Rail Infrastructure Developments

The key construction progress of 2018 was the break-through of the Eppenberg Tunnel between Aarau and Olten. This project is funded by the Future Development of the Railway Infrastructure programme.

There was progress within the other programmes as well. For example, the guarantees and final works had to be put in place for the Gotthard Base Tunnel in order to fully finish the tunnel and the connections to the main line in line with the Swiss government’s requirements. These works also mean that full service levels are now possible.

The New Rail Link through the Alps

The New Rail Link through the Alps is a major infrastructure project. It consists of three new base tunnels through the Alps as well as the development of access lines. This will provide better connections between northern and southern Switzerland. It will also connect the country more closely to the rest of Europe. The Lötschberg Base Tunnel has been open since 2007. The Gotthard Base Tunnel opened in 2016. At 57km it is the longest railway tunnel in the world. In 2020 the NRLA will be complete, when the Ceneri Base Tunnel opens. For passengers the NRLA will shorten travel times between the north and south by around one hour. For freight, the new rail link encourages a modal shift away from road.

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Read more | Stadler Giruno High-Speed Train for the Gotthard Receives Operating Licence

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The Future Development of the Railway Infrastructure (ZEB) Programme

The ZEB programme is the successor to ‘Bahn 2020’. It comprises a nationwide package of infrastructure measures worth 5.4 billion Swiss francs. The ZEB programme will create the necessary conditions for the deployment of 400-metre double-decker trains on the West-East Axis via Bern. It will also mean double-decker trains can run on the Lausanne-Brig line in Valais. Furthermore, this programme will enable more frequent services on a number of long-distance and regional routes. Lastly, the ZEB programme entails measures on the access routes to the Gotthard and Ceneri Base Tunnels that will allow more freight volumes on these lines. For example: one of the infrastructure measures in the ZEB programme is the creation of the new Eppenberg Tunnel, which will create a four-line corridor.

The 4-metre Corridor

The 4-metre corridor relates to freight transports. New lorries with semi-trailers that have a 4-metre corner height can transport greater freight volumes than their lower counterparts. And some routes are 4-metre capable. For example, the Lötschberg route, and the Gotthard and Ceneri base tunnels on the Gotthard route are. Consequently, these routes are capable of combined transport. However, a number of tunnels, platform roofs and other facilities on access routes are not yet 4-metre capable.

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In response, the Swiss parliament has set aside 990 million Swiss francs to create a 4-metre corridor on the Gotthard route. The hope is that this corridor will increase the modal shift to rail on the two NRLA routes – the Lötschberg and the Gotthard.

The 4-metre corridor will be finished by the end of 2020.

Importantly, these rail transports must be possible beyond the Swiss border. As a result, works on the 4-metre corridor extend into Italy.

The Development Phase 2025

62 percent of the Swiss people voted in favour of FABI – the programme to finance and develop the country’s rail infrastructure – in a referendum in 2014. In connection with FABI the Development Phase 2025 of the Strategic Development Programme for Rail Infrastructure (STEP) was passed. It comprises development works worth 6.4 billion Swiss francs and is being implemented alongside the Future Development of the Railway Infrastructure programme.

the Development Phase 25 programme will get rid of bottlenecks in the rail network of SBB and private operators. It will also increase capacity on the network. As a result, this programme addresses the increasing demand for rail services.

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