High-speed rail connections are mostly on track
Parliament is to release SFr1.1 billion ($940 million) to finance a project connecting Switzerland to the European high-speed rail network.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday joined the Senate in approving the finance, despite calls from the government and the rightwing Swiss People’s Party for savings.
The decision means that all but two of 14 projects in the west and east of the country will go ahead, and is being seen as victory for regional interests.
Only the lines from Geneva to Lyon (SFr40 million) and Lausanne to Vallorbe in the west of the country will have to wait for a second phase of the programme.
As part of its cost-cutting drive, the government had wanted to spend only SFr665 million ($568 million) in a first stage to cover the funding needs of the seven most urgent projects.
But the House's finance committee turned down the cabinet’s proposal in August, and another committee responsible for transport suggested sticking with the original SFr1.3 billion programme.
This was supported by 18 of the 26 cantons and the Public Transport Association, which felt that reducing the original credit would be undemocratic.
Despite a plea for savings from the transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, the House backed the Senate by 99 votes to 71.
"It’s a good solution for the whole of Switzerland," commented Norbert Hochreutener of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party. The new links would serve all rail users and not just the regions, he added.
The 14 projects are to be completed over the next ten years, while the two that are not included at present will be looked at again when the government examines the entire programme in 2007.
Switzerland, with its central position in Europe, has always said it wanted to be connected to the high-speed lines in neighbouring countries, a network which should cover most of the continent by 2020.
But to benefit, the Swiss have to upgrade lines in eastern and western Switzerland to which feeder lines must also be added.
swissinfo with agencies
Parliament is releasing SFr1.09 billion ($940 million) for 14 high-speed rail connections in the west and east of the country.
The lines between Geneva and Lyon, and Lausanne and Vallorbe, were not approved.
The House of Representatives supported the Senate in calling for a government examination of the entire programme in 2007.
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