Transport – a strong integration

Swissterminal, specialized for combined traffic between ship, train, truck (Terminal Niederglatt)
Swissterminal, specialized for combined traffic between ship, train, truck (Terminal Niederglatt) © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

The single market created within the EU also applies to transport. Trains, lorries, planes and ships have to be able to circulate freely in Europe. The EU seeks to reduce restrictions on competition and technical obstacles as far as possible to guarantee a smoother flow of traffic and better tariffs for passenger and freight transport. Two bilateral agreements from 1999 regulate reciprocal market access between Switzerland and the EU in the area of transport.

On the basis of the bilateral agreement on overland transport (Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on the carriage of goods and passengers by rail and road), the EU accepted the charge levied by Switzerland since 2001 on all lorries using its road network. Switzerland has complied with the EU’s request to increase the maximum weight limit for heavy goods vehicles authorised to drive in Switzerland from 28 to 40 tonnes. Switzerland has also undertaken to adopt regulations equivalent to those of the EU concerning, for example, the number of hours of rest taken by lorry drivers and technical specifications for locomotives and wagons.

Modern, high-performance infrastructure

Switzerland also makes a substantial contribution to the EU’s efforts to equip Europe with a modern, high-performance infrastructure. New railway lines across the Alps (in particular the new tunnels at Gotthard, Monte Ceneri and Lötschberg) and connections with the European high-speed rail network save a substantial amount of time on passenger and freight transport, in particular on north-south transit routes. On the Gotthard and Lötschberg transit routes, more than EUR 15 billion has been invested in rail infrastructure.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel was officially opened on June 1, 2016, and is in operation for scheduled commercial services since December 2016. It consists of two 57-kilometres-long single-track tubes. Including all cross-passages, access tunnels and shafts, the total length of the tunnel system is over 152 km. With a rock overburden of up to 2 300 metres, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is not only the world's longest, but also the world's deepest railway tunnel constructed to date. Allowing approximately 50 passenger trains and up to 260 freight trains to travel through the tunnel every day with speeds up to 200 km/h, the Gotthard Basis Tunnel will contribute to cost-effective, reliable and competitive passengers and rail freight transport between north and south along the TEN-T Rhine-Alpine Corridor. Having practically no slope, the flat railway allows longer trains, fewer locomotives and shorter travel times. The Gotthard axis of the «New Rail Link through the Alps» (NRLA) is expected to be completed in 2020 with the commissioning of the Ceneri Basistunnel. At the same time, the 4-meter corridor on the north-south axis should be operational. From Basel to Chiasso, a total of twenty tunnels will be adapted by 2020 to allow the transport of semitrailers at a height of four meters on railcars.

The civil aviation agreement (Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on air transport) regulates Swiss airline companies’ access to the European free market on a reciprocal basis with the EU. Swiss companies are thus free to choose which destinations they serve and the prices they want to charge for flights within Europe. Switzerland is also involved in Single European Sky, a project that aims to streamline and modernise air traffic control in Europe in order to be able to respond to future needs in terms of capacity and air security.