Attitudes to motoring and road construction are undergoing a sea change in Switzerland. For the first time in years, a major expansion of the country's road network has stood a chance in parliament.This content was published on March 21, 2000 - 18:55
Attitudes to motoring and road construction are undergoing a sea change in Switzerland.
For the first time in years, a major expansion of the country's road network has stood a chance in parliament.
The 1980s and 90s were the era of the ecologists. Parliament even called in a special session in the mid-eighties to debate forest damage that was attributed, rightly or wrongly, to pollution from increased motor traffic.
In 1987, catalytic converters became mandatory on all new cars, and at the same time any proposals to expand the motorway network failed even to reach the parliamentary stage.
But on Monday, the House of Representatives was about to debate an initiative calling for the construction of a second branch to the transalpine Gotthard road tunnel, when the speaker of the House decided to postpone the debate until the Summer session.
This caused loud discontent, until the chamber was calmed by the announcement that the debate would be held at a more convenient time than nine in the evening.
The committee had recommended rejection of the initiative, but only with a majority of one. A majority had been expected in plenary session for the discussion of the initiative.
Later this year, a referendum is to be held on expansion of the major motorways to six lanes, and the construction of a second sixteen-kilometre Gotthard road tunnel, bringing this major north-south link to four lanes.
The government and the Social Democratic transport minister Moritz Leuenberger, who has been concentrating on rail traffic, has only so far been willing to approve the widening of one or two bottlenecks.
But the record attendance at the recent Geneva Motor Show, amounting to ten per cent of the Swiss population and well over 300,000 new car sales last year indicate that Swiss would rather have their feet on the gas and not the brake pedal.
by Peter Haller
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