Cantons Bern and Valais have launched a committee to lobby for the Lötschberg rail tunnel, opened in 2007, to be upgraded because of the increasing traffic using it.
The transport directors of the two cantons, which lie at either end of the tunnel, point out that it is single track for more than half its 34.6 kilometres.
They are calling for a second tube that has already been excavated to be fitted out to cope with demand from both goods and passenger trains. The costs would amount to between SFr790 million ($799 million) and SFr1.3 billion, depending on the project chosen.
The Lötschberg committee aims to campaign at the federal and cantonal levels to make the tunnel upgrade a priority in Switzerland’s Rail 2030 project, which plans mainly to improve the East-West infrastructure.
Bern and Valais say they do not want to compete with the new 57 km long Gotthard rail tunnel, arguing that if the North-South axis is to work well, both the Gotthard and an upgraded Lötschberg are needed.
They note that passenger trains were originally only intended to account for a quarter of the traffic passing through the Lötschberg, but the reality is that they now account for 60 per cent, a figure which is on the increase.
swissinfo.ch and agencies