Swiss Federal Railways moots merger

There have been further reports about a possible merger between the Swiss Federal Railways and the BLS Lötschberg Railway.

This content was published on January 17, 2000

There have been further reports about a possible merger between the Swiss Federal Railways and the BLS Lötschberg Railway.

A Federal Railways spokesman, Reto Kormann, confirmed that the issue had been raised during discussions between the two railways on increased co-operation. He added that savings of up to SFr50 million could be made annually if a merger were to take place.

The BLS is one of the most significant private railways in Switzerland. As a standard gauge railway, it is an important link between Northern Europe and Italy, as well as between the Swiss capital, Berne, and major European cities.

"Negotiations about an alliance have been taking place for some time," said Kormann. "Questions really have to be asked about insisting to go it alone when annual savings of SFr50 million could be made and market position could be strengthened," he added.

Savings are not the only argument in favour of a merger. New Alpine tunnels at the Lötschberg and Gotthard would be in the same hands, there would be no competition between the two, and goods traffic could be sent on either route, as conditions demanded.

Last November, both the Federal Railways and the BLS vigorously denied a report in the Berner Zeitung newspaper which mentioned talks of a merger. In the article, the chairman of the Federal Railways, Thierry Lalive D'Epinay, called for a merger and spoke of top-level negotiations on the issue.

Whatever the management of the railways decide, it will be the shareholders who have the final say. That means the federal government in the case of the Federal Railways and canton Berne (majority shareholder) for the BLS. However, the BLS owes the Confederation SFr1 billion, which neither it nor canton Berne is in a position to pay back for the time being.

From staff and wire reports

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