Overland transport

Image of a Swiss train
Switzerland aims to integrate its rail network in the European network. ©SBB CFF FFS

Switzerland is committed to operating a high-performance, environmentally responsible transport system that is integrated into the European network. The FDFA provides support on issues of international concern and cooperates with the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) and Federal Roads Office (FEDRO). 

Situated at the very heart of Europe, Switzerland is closely linked to its neighbours through overland transport systems. Switzerland is a major transit country for rail freight along the Rotterdam to Genoa corridor and for road traffic on the north-south motorways between Germany and Italy and east-west between Central Europe, Austria and France.

The FDFA cooperates with the Federal Office of Transport and the Federal Roads Office on a number of international aspects in order to maintain a general overview and ensure a coherent Swiss foreign policy on transport.

There are four key issues at international level:

  • New Rail Link through the Alps
  • The European high-speed network
  • Cross-border traffic
  • The bilateral Overland Transport Agreement

New Rail Link through the Alps

A central plank of Swiss transport policy is moving transalpine traffic from road to rail with a view to reducing the number of heavy goods vehicles in transit and protecting local communities and the environment. The New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) substantially supports this policy. The NRLA comprises three base tunnels (2007: Lötschberg, 2016: Gotthard and 2020: Ceneri) and upgrades to the access routes. The construction of the NRLA will expand railway capacity for freight and improve passenger transport. The NRLA is also a key component of the Rhine-Alpine Corridor, which extends from Rotterdam and Antwerp to Genoa and is one of the busiest freight routes in Europe.

The cooperation of Germany and Italy is required to ensure that sufficient capacity is available on their territory to the north and south of the Alps and to absorb the growth in traffic when the NRLA tunnels become operational. Switzerland has signed bilateral agreements with Germany and Italy to ensure the long-term viability of NRLA access routes. The relevant steering committees are responsible for addressing issues relating to implementation of the agreements.

The European high-speed network

Switzerland aims to integrate its rail network into the European network and facilitate passenger travel between the major European cities by establishing the necessary high-speed rail links.

Cross-border traffic

The growth in regional cross-border traffic requires the construction of new railway lines, such as the CEVA rail link in the Greater Geneva area, as well as the renovation and extension of existing lines. Switzerland is cooperating with its neighbours on implementing these projects, with the aim of better serving the needs of the public.

The bilateral Overland Transport Agreement

Switzerland and the European Union entered into an Overland Transport Agreement in 1999, which enables Switzerland to coordinate transport policy with the EU. The Agreement has opened up access to the road and rail transport markets and facilitated the harmonisation of competitive conditions. The Agreement also recognises Switzerland’s road-to-rail policy, giving Switzerland the option of levying a heavy goods vehicle charge (HGVC). A large proportion of HGVC revenues will be channelled into the new Rail Infrastructure Fund (RIF), which the Swiss electorate approved in a referendum on 9 February 2014.