New group plans to bring high-speed rail to Switzerland
In recent years, high-speed rail - trains that run at speeds of around 300 kilometres an hour or more - have been the hallmark of European transport policy. Now, a group of rail officials want to bring this technology to Switzerland.
Swiss public transport is slow but well-connected
According to Watson, public transport in Switzerland is slow but dense, meaning that a large number of trains are used at a slower speed. While this does mean a more interconnected service, particularly in rural areas and areas in the mountains, it leads to extremely slow travel times in comparison with the rest of Europe.
Deliberate decision to slow down trains in Switzerland
Trains between Swiss cities achieve an average speed of between 78 and 126 km / h, well below the high-speed standard of 300 km / h. While in some cases this may be due to geography, it is mainly down to policy, as most of the high-speed rail that was planned by the Swiss government in the 20th century was scrapped in favour of a slower but better-connected service.
This is confirmed by the Federal Office of Transport, who in a statement to Watson emphasised that transportation in Switzerland remains reliable and nationwide. They made the point that if trains went faster, it would encourage workers to commute further distances, spreading urban sprawl in Swiss housing and increasing the consumption of energy.
Groups to advocate for high-speed rail in Switzerland
However, a new advocacy group, SwissRailvolution, hopes to change the government’s mind. The group is a collection of traffic experts and former rail employees, who hope to persuade the government in Bern to make speed their focus, in order to get more people to use the railways.
Spokesperson Guido Schoch, the former head of Zürcher Verkehrsverbund, said that if the government is to achieve its goal of 42 percent of journeys being completed by public transport by 2050, they will have to focus on “the travel time from door to door.” He advised the Federal Council to stop building “castles in the sky” and focus on faster connections.
In response, many within the Federal Parliament have explained how difficult it is to approve high-speed rail, as high-speed trains typically require large amounts of construction and do not stop at regular intervals. Representatives from rural regions say that it is difficult to explain why citizens should approve a high-speed train that goes through their canton without stopping.
While the possibility of high-speed trains is a long way off, the Federal Council has already announced several projects to cut journey times across Switzerland, although this only amounts to savings of five minutes on most routes. Many experts believe that Switzerland will be left behind if it does not act fast.