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Transalpine traffic high on agenda at Lisbon summit

Moritz Leuenberger is under pressure at home to find solutions to transalpine traffic congestion

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, is attending a European Conference of Ministers of Transport in Lisbon to discuss a pan-European transport strategy. One key issue is transalpine traffic flows.

Leuenberger, who is also minister for transport, is expected to use the occasion to push fellow ministers to ratify a series of bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union. The accords cannot come into effect until they have been approved by all the EU’s member parliaments.

Among the points up for discussion at this year’s transport meeting is the implementation of a Pan-European transport strategy, harmonisation of regulations covering international road freight transport, increased use of sulphur-free fuels, and better transport access for Europe’s ageing populations.

Of particular interest to the Swiss is the issue of transalpine traffic flows. The ECMT claims there is still insufficient data for monitoring the current position, arguing that many of the forecasts are “highly conflicting”.

The organisation is seeking ministers’ approval for the creation of an international monitoring system to ensure a more accurate picture of the transalpine traffic situation is available.

Many of Europe’s north-south arteries cut through Switzerland, and are struggling to cope with increasingly severe traffic jams, particularly along the route through the Gotthard tunnel, which links northern Europe and Italy.

On Monday, Leuenberger discussed proposals with cantonal officials in Switzerland aimed at easing congestion caused by heavy goods trucks travelling on Swiss roads. He said the government’s long-term aim was to transfer freight from road to rail as soon as the Alpine rail system was able to cope with the extra traffic.

In the short-term, cantonal officials proposed creating some 1,400 rest stops to allow heavy good trucks to pull off roads when congestion becomes too bad. Suggestions that parking areas be created for trucks, and that trucks be allowed to travel all night through Switzerland were rejected.

Among the other topics scheduled for discussion in Lisbon are new proposals aimed at tackling thefts of goods and goods vehicles, which costs freight operators millions of euros each year.

The ECMT claims thefts of goods’ vehicles have risen in some countries by on average 21 per cent between 1995 and 1999. A second report will also look at the role which anti-theft devices and vehicle-tracking systems can play in combating the theft of goods vehicles.

The ECMT, which was founded in October 1953, comprises of ministers from 40 European countries. There are six associate member countries, plus two observer countries.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR