The government has come under fire over plans to cut spending on links to Europe’s high-speed rail network by more than ten per cent.This content was published on May 26, 2004 - 17:45
Regional authorities, notably in western Switzerland, have criticised a proposal to release only SFr665 million ($524 million) for the first phase of work.
The cabinet decided on Wednesday to shave SFr75 million from the package for upgrading access to the high-speed rail network in neighbouring France and Germany.
Switzerland wants to improve services to the French capital, Paris, and the cities of Munich and Stuttgart in southern Germany.
The transport ministry blamed the shortfall on federal budget constraints and financial concerns surrounding a major national railway project.
Connections to the French high-speed railway are worst affected by the cuts, provoking a harsh response from most cantons, Switzerland’s regional authorities.
In a statement, 18 of the country’s 26 cantons slammed the cabinet’s proposal as “anti-democratic”. They have called on parliament to reject the bill.
The cabinet decision means that only three projects in the French-speaking part of the country would be completed during the first phase.
Construction work around Lausanne in western Switzerland would be called off or postponed.
However, plans to upgrade access to Germany’s rail network and reduce journey times to Munich and Stuttgart are left unchanged.
Parliament is due to begin discussions on the financial package later this year, and initial construction work is scheduled to get underway by the beginning of next year.
Switzerland itself does not have high-speed trains because of its limited size and difficult topography.
Controversy also surrounds a major project to upgrade the country’s railway network.
It includes the construction of two new transalpine rail tunnels through the Gotthard and Lötschberg mountain ranges in central and western Switzerland.
Next month parliament is due to debate an additional SFr900 million credit for the SFr14.9 billion project.
However, recent calls for yet another top-up of around SFr700 million prompted the government to order a review of certain projects.
swissinfo with agencies
The government wants to cut funding for European high-speed rail links from SFr740 million ($583 million) to SFr665 million.
Under the proposals, to be discussed by parliament, construction work around Lausanne in western Switzerland would be called off or postponed.
The cabinet plans focus on improving rail links between Switzerland and Paris, Munich and Stuttgart.
Another project costing an estimated SFr15.8 billion involves upgrading Switzerland’s national rail network, including two new transalpine rail tunnels.
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