Projected costs soar for new trans-Alpine rail links

A parliamentary committee on Friday warned about soaring costs of Switzerland’s planned trans-Alpine rail links, saying the government should review parts of the project and consider commercial co-financing.

This content was published on November 26, 1999 - 14:39

A parliamentary committee on Friday warned about soaring costs of Switzerland’s planned trans-Alpine rail links, saying the government should review parts of the project and consider commercial co-financing.

The supervisory committee, presenting its first report on the project, warned that costs would be exceeded by at least SFr438 million ($277 million) due to inflation and higher construction costs.

The railway project includes construction of two major rail tunnels across the Alps, at the Gotthard and Lötschberg mountains. Costs were expected to exceed the 1991-based tenders of SFr332 million ($210 million) for the Gotthard link and another SFr106 million ($67 million) for the Lötschberg tunnel, according to the committee.

The 12 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate said that much of the higher cost was due to higher prices asked by construction companies. Many of the tenders were presented at a time when the industry was sagging and often making offers at very little profit.

The government has set aside an emergency reserve for the project of SFr1.6 billion ($1.01 billion) but the committee recommended that those funds only be used in case of emergency.

To compensate for the higher-than-expected costs, parliamentarians urged the government to review construction standards – without compromising safety.

The committee also did not rule out co-financing of some railway stretches – for instance the Zimmerberg and Monte Ceneri tunnels – by private businesses.

The issue of trans-Alpine railway links played a key role in Switzerland’s negotiations with the European Union on their bilateral accords.

When the accords were finally signed after four years of negotiations in June, Switzerland had succeeded in limiting the number of EU trucks crossing its Alpine roads.

At the same time, Switzerland pledged to provide competitive rail transport for EU goods traffic across the Alps – and the railway network with its two key tunnels will play a vital role in this.

From staff and wire reports.

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