Freight train in Switzerland. Photo: Siemens

Switzerland invests in French and Italian rail infrastructure: ‘it’s our duty’

Switzerland aims to extend its infrastructure investments to France and Italy, targeting rail lines and terminals. In France, it is working with the government to define the scope of investment for the Wörth-Strasbourg line whereas in Italy the Swiss are looking at co-financing the extension of the Lötschberg-Simplon line and the construction of the new Milano Smistamento terminal.

“It is our constitutional obligation to enable the modal shift, even outside of Switzerland if this means that our country also benefits”, said Peter Füglistaler, director of land transport at the Swiss Federal Office of Transport. In this way, about the reasons for the Swiss decision to invest in the infrastructure of other countries.
Switzerland might not have reached its goal of limiting the number of truck movements to a maximum of 650,000 truck in 2021 (the number of transalpine truck journeys was 860,000); however, this supposed failure provides impetus for more plans and investments to reach the needed rail freight modal split. “As long as we don’t reach our goal, we need to do more, including rail investments in other countries. We have the legal basis for that”, Füglistaler stressed.

French Rhine line

The financing of the Wörth-Strasbourg line in order to meet international standards and function as a bypass to the Rhine’s right bank line is not confirmed yet. “We are in talks with our French colleagues to see how Switzerland can be involved in this investment and what should be the project’s focal points. We hope that we will sign the agreement by year-end and implement the project within a ten-year timeframe”, Füglistaler pointed out.
He also underlined that this French bypass will not only become an alternative to the heavily used and frequently disrupted Rhine’s right bank line, but will also be of utmost importance for traffic coming from Belgium and the port of Antwerp. As a result, it will not be just a bypass but also a permanent solution.

The Simplon line

In Italy, the Swiss government works closely with state-owned Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane. The Italians plan to extend the Lötschberg-Simplon line crossing the Swiss-Italian border towards Milan and facilitate access to Novara, Domodossola and Milan. Switzerland has already signed a contract with Italy worth roughly 142 million euros and will thus contribute financially to the line’s extension. This project is set to finish in 2028.

Hupac’s Smistamento Terminal

In terms of facilitating transalpine traffic and access to and from Italy, The Swiss co-financing of Hupac’s new Milano Smistamento terminal serves the same purpose as any other international investment. “Switzerland also strives to finance terminals if they have a great contribution to intermodal traffic through the country”, explained Füglistaler.

“Hupac’s Smistamento terminal will be a great addition to the company’s Busto Arsizio terminal. Its added value is that Busto Arsizio serves mainly the Northwest axis, while Smistamento will serve the Southeastern axis”, Füglistaler said. Apart from removing more trucks from the road, the Smistamento terminal will contribute to the complete transformation of the broader Milan area into a fully integrated intermodal logistics hub that will reach out to all directions. On top of that, since it will serve different regions other than Busto Arsizio, it could help mobilise the whole Italian rail freight and intermodal sector.

This article first appeared on RailFreight.com, RailTech.com’s sister publication. 

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

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