Switzerland: further development of freight transport in 2 variants

Karel Novak, Published on 09/11/2022
Switzerland: further development of freight transport in 2 variants
@hpgruesen by pixabay

The Swiss Federal Council wants to further develop freight transport in view of energy and climate policy objectives and the importance of rail transport for Switzerland's security of supply. It has therefore decided to submit two options for consultation.

The first option provides for modernized framework conditions for rail freight transport with extensive financial support from the Federal Government. The second focuses on competitive incentive instruments. However, this would result in the disappearance of important rail freight services and their transfer to roads. Digital automatic coupling for rail freight will be supported by both options, as will navigation on the Rhine.

Rail freight has not succeeded in increasing its market share over the last ten years as expected.

The single wagon freight service offered by SBB Cargo has remained very complex and continues to be expensive. Individual wagons are collected from various sidings and assembled into complete trains for onward transport at marshalling yards. SBB Cargo is therefore facing major financial problems.

In the light of these developments, Parliament has instructed the Federal Council to submit an outline of the future direction of freight transport. In doing so, the Federal Council is also taking into account the objectives of climate and energy policy and security of supply. According to the 2050 climate strategy, the objective for freight transport is to switch freight vehicles to renewable fuels and to switch to rail.

In this context, the Federal Council has decided to submit two options for the further development of freight transport for consultation.

The first option aims to technically and organisationally modernise rail freight transport, strengthen the rail and shipping chain and thus significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from freight transport. To this end, the Federal Council proposes targeted financial support. The Federation should be able to compensate single-carriage providers financially. In addition, financial contributions are planned for the introduction of digital automatic coupling. This will help to simplify, speed up and make rail freight transport cheaper. It is therefore supported by all European railways in a coordinated way. In this option, the Federal Council also proposes to provide financial support for goods handling facilities and the provision of infrastructure for the Rhine and to introduce a bonus in the form of a contribution to reducing loading on the railways. The cost of these measures is approximately CHF 600 million over a four-year period. Thereafter, the new system is to operate gradually on its own.

The second option will dispense with state financial support for single-carriage freight. In principle, rail freight transport is to be provided and financed in competition with road transport. However, this option also provides for support for shipping on the Rhine and for contributions to modernisation, in particular financial support for the industry to introduce digital, automatic connections. This is important for cross-border transport. Similar to the first option, subsidies for handling and loading equipment and a 'loading bonus' are also provided for. This option involves federal expenditure of approximately CHF 120 million over four years. The Federal Council assumes that under this option, single-car freight transport will have to be discontinued in the medium term and that a shift of transport to the road would mean an increase of approximately 650 000 truck journeys per year. Furthermore, quality rail transport would only be available where there are higher volumes of traffic, i.e. in urban areas. Rail's market share would probably decrease by 5 to 6 percentage points, and in domestic transport by about 15 percentage points.

In view of the tight financial situation of the Confederation, the financing of the planned measures will need to be carefully examined in the preparation of the despatch.

The consultation on the further development of rail freight will run until 24 February 2023.



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