Almost 30 years after a high-speed rail link was voted for by the Swiss in a referendum, the final section of the New Rail Link – a high-speed rail link through the Alps – is set to open to rail traffic in December 2020. Here is at this historic €21.3bn project, the milestones of which include the creation of the 35-mile-long Gotthard Base Tunnel.
One of the main objectives of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) in Switzerland is to move traffic from the roads onto the rails and help protect the alpine environment.
Gotthard Base Tunnel bypasses the old winding mountain roads, cutting 25 miles from the travel distance between Zurich and Milan. The finished rail project will slash travel time throughout connected routes in continental Europe, with passenger services running at speeds up to 200km/h.
Since the 1980s, Switzerland has pursued a sustainable transport policy to expand both public transport and rail freight. In the 1992 Swiss referendum on the NRLA, 62% voted in favour of the development.
Two years later, voters also approved the Alpine Initiative to shift freight from road to rail. And in 1998, a fund was established to secure the long-term funding of rail projects.
“In order to finance the NRLA and other large-scale railway projects, Switzerland set up a special fund in 1998, dedicated to only these projects,” explains Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT) spokesperson Florence Pictet. “Therefore, NRLA and expansion programmes were no longer submitted to normal budget procedures. This allows long-term stable planning for the use of available financial resources, regardless of the political or economic situation.”