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Former railways boss speaks out

The former head of Swiss Federal Railways has rejected criticism of his management of the company's cargo division, which has been hit by 400 job cuts.

This content was published on March 15, 2008 - 15:15

In his first comments on the issue, Benedikt Weibel, who stepped down at the end of 2006, told Swiss public radio the right decisions had been made in a difficult context.

Workers at the Bellinzona cargo facility in the southern canton of Ticino are still on strike over the job losses.

A meeting between the unions and the federal railways to try and resolve the situation has been taking place. On late Saturday evening it was announced that no agreement had been reached and that talks would continue.

Some observers have said that the management had not realised the extent of the problem at the deficit-making cargo division.

Weibel said that when the unit was privatised in 1999 it was left to face to fierce international competition, but that it had to go into foreign markets. He added the division's finances were in order when he left his post.

"For 16 years I fought hard for the cargo division," Weibel said.

Weibel – now the government's Euro 2008 football championships ambassador - said he had nevertheless been "very surprised" by the unit's deficit last year of SFr190 million ($190.3 million) and the restructuring plans.

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