Photo credits @ Flickr/ Nelso Silva under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

Switzerland invests €270 million to shift freight from road to rail

To tackle road congestion and meet climate targets, the Swiss government has unveiled a comprehensive package to boost rail freight transport. The plan, worth hundreds of millions of francs, combines direct financial support with reform initiatives to promote digitalisation in various areas.

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“If we do nothing, more and more freight will be shifted to the roads, leading to gridlock and jeopardising our climate goals,” Transport Minister Albert Rösti told Swiss news agency SDA when announcing the initiatives. He added that the current 40% share of rail freight simply wasn’t good enough, so the government had to take decisive action.

The cornerstone of the plan is a targeted approach to revitalising single wagonload traffic, a critical but financially troubled segment. With 260 million Swiss francs (more than 278 million euros) earmarked for the first four years, the government aims to provide temporary support that could be extended for up to eight years.

Additional, ongoing contributions are planned to cover transhipment costs and under-recoveries to ensure the viability of this vital service.

But the package goes beyond immediate financial support. To promote digitalisation, the plan encourages increased automation in rail freight.

From automatic couplings and brakes to optimised documentation, the aim is to streamline operations and increase efficiency. To this end, the Swiss government is pledging a one-off investment of 180 million Swiss francs (approx 192.5 million euros) to equip wagons and locomotives with the latest technology and is working with Austria and Germany on a continent-wide digital upgrade.

Also, the plan aims to establish a legal framework for the promotion of fossil-free drives in locomotives and marshalling yards, paving the way for cleaner and more sustainable freight transport.

Cross-modal cooperation is another key focus, with the government committing to support the Rhine port infrastructure dedicated to freight, promoting better integration between land and water.

Funding for this project will come from a strategic source: the performance-based Heavy Vehicle Fee (HVF). By redirecting part of the revenue collected from the freight industry, the government aims to achieve budget neutrality, ensuring that there is no additional burden on taxpayers. Transparency and accountability are paramount, with Rösti emphasising that the funds will be allocated based on performance agreements rather than a “watering can” approach.

Photo credits @ Flickr/ Nelso Silva under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED