Swiss Federal Council's vision for strengthening rail freight in the Alps

Swiss Federal Council's vision for strengthening rail freight in the Alps
© hpgruesen on Pixabay

The proposals, adopted during the Council's recent meeting, focus on adjusting the heavy vehicle charge (HVC) and increasing financial support for rail transport on shorter routes.

The Swiss Federal Council unveiled plans to fortify rail freight transport through the Alps by amending the performance-related heavy vehicle fee (HVF) to reflect inflation rates from January 1, 2025. This strategic move is aimed at stimulating rail freight transport while laying the foundations for increased financial support for rail transport on routes shorter than 600 kilometers. These proposals form part of the new modal shift report, adopted during the Council's meeting on November 29, 2023.

The completion of the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) and other measures implemented have had a positive impact on the modal shift of freight transport. In the first half of 2023, rail reached a market share of 72.7%, while at the same time, the number of truck journeys remained well below 1 million, despite a significant increase in overall traffic. However, factors such as Europe's challenging economic climate, numerous construction sites on the rail network, and widespread train delays are currently hampering the modal shift. The legal target of limiting lorry journeys to 650,000 per year remains unmet.

The Federal Council is proposing several key measures to strengthen the modal shift:

  • Adjustment of the HVF: In response to inflation, HVF tariffs will witness a 5% increase from January 1, 2025. Additionally, the Council is drafting a proposal to evolve the HVF system, addressing the integration of electrically powered vehicles.
  • Enhanced promotion for shorter routes: A recent external analysis indicates that additional support for routes spanning up to 600 kilometers could steer more transport towards rail services. This initiative would require a redistribution of funding by reducing compensation for long-distance services over the next years.
  • Additional measures: The Rolling Highway will continue to operate until 2028, as requested by parliament. In addition, the Federal Council will not increase the traction current price for freight transport as originally planned at the beginning of 2024 but will keep it at 12 centimes per kilowatt hour.
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