A leading environmental group has called on the Swiss authorities to push ahead with efforts to reduce road traffic on the main north-south route through the Alps.This content was published on February 20, 2006 - 18:28
The transport ministry recently suggested that it might delay until 2017 plans to put more heavy-goods traffic onto rail.
The non-governmental Alpine Initiative group said on Monday that it was still possible to meet the target date of 2009 for reducing the number of heavy-goods vehicles from 1.25 million to 650,000 per year.
"It is an ambitious goal, but it is still feasible," said Fabio Pedrina, president of the Alpine Initiative.
The organisation added that the authorities should increase efforts to promote new safety measures for trucks crossing the Gotthard road tunnel in central Switzerland, which is the main north-south thoroughfare between Germany and Italy.
It also demanded the introduction of a reservation system for trucks, a trading exchange for transit slots as well as improved rail infrastructure.
Alf Arnold of the Alpine Initiative said it was an illusion to believe that the planned opening of the Lötschberg tunnel in western Switzerland in 2007 would help reduce traffic on the Gotthard route.
He pointed out that Swiss voters approved a proposal in 1994 to force transalpine traffic onto rail.
Switzerland's road haulage association has rejected the proposals, saying they would place an unfair burden on domestic road transport and discriminate against Swiss hauliers.
Transport experts said the chances of implementing an exchange for transit slots at the Gotthard tunnel were slim because it went against the principles of the European Union.
"The EU wants to leave the choice of transport up to free-market forces," Ulrich Weidmann from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich told Der Bund newspaper.
Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger is expected to present new plans to cabinet on ways of improving compliance with Switzerland's transport policy.
He recently suggested delaying until 2017 the target date for halving the number of heavy-goods trucks crossing the Alps.
Leuenberger is reportedly considering extending until 2017 a SFr280 million ($214 million) programme of annual subsidies to encourage more road traffic onto rail.
swissinfo with agencies
The Alpine Initiative group was founded in the late 1980s. It aims to protect the alpine environment from increasing road traffic.
The group forced a nationwide vote on the issue, which was approved by the Swiss voters in 1994.
As a result, parliament and the government decided to introduce fees for heavy-goods vehicles, increasing the maximum weight of trucks from 28-40 tons and subsidising tickets for trucks which use rail transport.
The Alpine Initiative claims to have about 50,000 members and supporters.
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