Freight train in Switzerland. Photo: Siemens

Switzerland, EU discuss extension of joint land transport agreement

Freight train in Switzerland. Photo: Siemens

Swiss authorities have voiced support for extending cooperation with the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) as both sides stressed the importance of simplifying cross-border traffic. At the most recent meeting of the Joint Land Transport Committee on 24 June, officials discussed extending the current transitional agreement with strong support for mutually beneficial market access.

“Both sides want to continue the cooperation and have a great interest in ensuring that cross-border rail traffic functions as smoothly as possible and without obstacles,” a spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT) said.

The current Land Transport Agreement was signed by Switzerland and the EU in 1999 and entered into force in 2002. Designed to harmonise legal regulations, the agreement was a key measure that helped integrate Swiss rail into the European transport market. Since the launch of the ERA in 2019, Switzerland has adopted much of the legislation of the European rail market on a case-by-case basis.

Advocate of interconnectivity

Switzerland has been a vocal advocate for improved interconnectivity, announcing plans to invest in electrification of the Wörth-Strasbourg line crossing through France earlier this year and proposing new infrastructure investments in France and Italy, to strengthen rail lines and terminals.

“The cross-border movement of goods and persons will be facilitated, security will be maintained, and the social protection of workers will be ensured”, Peter Füglistaler, director of land transport at the Swiss FOT, commented. “It is in both sides’ interests to secure these advantages in the future and to settle the overarching differences in cooperation between Switzerland and the EU.”

Long-term strategy

In June, the Swiss Federal Council announced the latest steps in the revision of its long-term strategy for railways, outlining plans to strengthen the rail links as part of a multi-billion euro investment.

“So far, [strategy] has primarily been geared towards bottleneck removal and cycle compression. With the future expansion steps within the framework of the BAHN 2050 perspective, the rail services are primarily to be improved over short and medium distances,” a spokesperson for the FOT commented.

BAHN 2050 roadmap

The BAHN 2050 roadmap is a comprehensive plan for the sector, based on a series of studies commissioned by the FOT from research companies and universities. The FOT has opened consultation on the roadmap and will publish a background report on the Perspektive BAHN 2050 on 15 July.

The new roadmap is expected to drive rail freight transport opportunities, both in Switzerland and neighbouring EU countries, thanks to new intermodal transhipment platforms and city logistics facilities. The FOT awaits the Parliament’s decision on the next expansion step, scheduled for 2026.

Author: Malcolm Ramsay

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