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Alpine Transport Protocol under fire

The Transport Protocol to the 1995 Alpine Convention has been heavily criticised, following a wide consultation. The Swiss People's Party and road transport lobbies reject the protocol outright, while green lobbies say it does not go far enough.

The Transport Protocol to the 1995 Alpine Convention has attracted substantial criticism, following a wide-ranging consultation launched by the government last year. The Swiss People’s Party and the road transport industry reject the protocol outright, while environmental lobbies say it does not go far enough.

The aim of the Transport Protocol, an addition to the Alpine Convention which was ratified by Switzerland in January 1999, is to limit the environmental impact of traffic across the Alpine region. It provides in particular for the transfer of transalpine traffic from road to rail.

Is also states that no further large-scale roads should be built across the Alps, and insists that users of each transport mode should be made to pay the true “external” costs of the services they consume – including the environmental costs.

The transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, launched a wide ranging consultation on the Protocol in December. The responses are sure to fuel controversy.

Opponents of the Protocol include the main road haulage lobbies. They insist that an effective transport system is vital for balanced economic growth, and are concerned that too much attention is being given to environmental, rather than economic, arguments.

The People’s Party has largely taken sides with the haulage industry. It agrees that the protocol takes acount only of claims made by environmentalists, and ignores the economic issues.

The party believes that if the protocol enters into force, the result will be new taxes, notably for industry. It claims, moreover, that existing safeguards to protect the environment are more than adequate.

Unsurprisingly, environmental organisations do not agree. Indeed, they insist that the Protocol, in its present form, does not go far enough.

The International Commission for the Protection of the Alps, for example, says it condemns any attempt to water down the existing text. More specifically, it criticises clauses in the protocol which will certain existing road projects to go ahead, irrespective of the environmental damage they may cause.

A more moderate view has been put forward by representatives of the Alpine cantons and the Swiss Tourism Federation. They agree that transit traffic should be reduced, but want the scope of the Protocol to be narrowed.

In particular, they say that transport within Switzerland’s valleys should be excluded, allowing the national route network to be completed. It is, they claim, the trans-alpine traffic which causes the most environmental damage, and which should therefore be reduced.

The Protocol must be ratified by the Swiss Parliament before it can enter into force in Switzerland.

From staff and wire reports

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