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Switzerland opens borders to heavy goods traffic

The first truck drivers passed through the Italian border at Chiasso-Brogeda without any major tailbacks

(Keystone)

Switzerland has opened its borders for the first time to heavy goods traffic following a transport agreement with the European Union. The accord sees Switzerland ease restrictions on weight limits and a special tax is being introduced.

Truckers are dreading long tailbacks at the main border posts, but the first day passed off without any major hitches.

"Everything has gone according to plan," said Hugo Geiger, from the federal customs office who is overseeing the project.

"We are happy with the situation so far, although we must say that traffic has been light," Geiger told swissinfo.

A truck driver from Germany was the first to cross into Switzerland at the Chiasso-Brodega border with Italy. He had to pay a tax of SFr150 for his 300 kilometre journey to Basel.

"Some 700 trucks passed through the border crossing at Chiasso on Tuesday. The traffic will grow and reach normal levels by the end of January," Geiger said.

Close to 5,000 trucks were believed to have passed through Switzerland's borders on Tuesday, Hans-Peter Wirth, a customs officer, said. That figure represents half of the traffic flow during working hours.

Switzerland is increasing the weight limit for heavy goods vehicles from 28 to 34 tonnes. More 40 tonne trucks will also appear on Swiss roads as part of the agreement which the Swiss ratified last May.

At the same time, Switzerland is introducing the world's first tax on heavy goods vehicles, based on the polluter-pays-principle.

Swiss trucks must be equipped with an electronic on board unit, which registers the distance driven. Foreign trucks can also install the system or pay with a plastic chip card.

The data is administered by the customs authorities as trucks enter or leave Switzerland. The expected revenue of SFr750 million ($460 million) annually will mainly be used for upgrading the Swiss railway network.

The new tax has received a mixed response in Switzerland. The Swiss Road Transport Association says it will lead to long tailbacks at border posts because each truck will need to be checked.

swissinfo

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