Modal split rail through the Alps highest in 25 years

Ceneri Base Tunnel

Thanks to the opening of the Ceneri base tunnel and the 4-meter corridor, the share of rail in Transalpine freight traffic has increased to a record high. In the first half of 2021, it accounted for 74.4 per cent of the volumes through the Alps, the highest value for a quarter of a century.

The number of truck trips also increased slightly after the corona-related slump in the previous year, but continues to decline in a longer-term comparison. Transalpine rail freight grew with 3 percentage points in comparison with the previous year. This is according to the Federal Office of Transport (FOT), which published its report on transalpine freight transport in H1 2021 last week.

In total, 15.2 per cent more goods were transported through the Alps than in the first half of 2020 and also more than in the first half of 2019. “Freight traffic through the Alps has thus recovered from the corona crisis”, concludes the FOT.

Exceptional growth for rail

That being said, rail freight has grown disproportionately. The main reason for this development is the completion of the New Railway Link through the Alps, with the opening of the Ceneri base tunnel and the commissioning of the continuous 4-meter corridor.

As a result, longer and heavier trains have been able to run increasingly on the Gotthard axis since the end of 2020. With the possibility of now also transporting semi-trailers with a corner height of 4 metres via the Gotthard axis, an additional segment could be gained for the rail.

This development was also favored by the financial aid with which various European countries supported rail transport during the corona pandemic.

Truck traffic

Meanwhile, 453,000 trucks drove through the Swiss Alps in the first half of the year. That is 40,000 trips more than in the first half of 2020, which was shaped by the corona pandemic and the protective measures taken with it. Compared to the first half of 2019, however, truck trips continued to decline.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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