The single market created within the EU also applies to the transport sector. Trains, lorries, aircrafts and ships have to be able to circulate freely in Europe. The EU seeks to minimize restrictions on competition and technical obstacles to guarantee smoother traffic flows and lower fares for both passenger and freight transport. Two bilateral agreements from 1999 regulate reciprocal market access between Switzerland and the EU in the area of transport.
On the basis of the Overland Transport Agreement, the EU accepted the distance-related heavy vehicle fee levied by Switzerland since 2001 on all lorries using its road network. In return, Switzerland has complied with the EU’s request to increase the maximum weight limit for heavy vehicles authorised to circulate on its territory from 28 to 40 tonnes. Switzerland has also undertaken to apply rules equivalent to those of the EU concerning, for example, rest periods for lorry drivers or technical specifications for locomotives and wagons.
Modern, high-performance infrastructure
Switzerland also makes a substantial contribution to the EU’s efforts to equip Europe with a modern, high-performance and sustainable transport infrastructure. It has invested around CHF 24 billion in the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) and the 4-metre corridor on the Gotthard axis. With the completion of these infrastructures in 2020, Switzerland significantly contributes to shifting freight traffic from road to rail. Thanks to the base tunnels through the Gotthard, Ceneri and Lötschberg and the uniform profile, freight and passenger trains are able to run in greater numbers and under easier conditions. Travel times between north and south have been shortened.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel, the core section of the NRLA, was officially opened in 2016. It consists of two 57-km-long single-track tubes. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is not only the world’s longest, but also the deepest railway tunnel built to date. Allowing approximately 50 passenger trains and up to 260 freight trains to travel through the tunnel every day at speeds of up to 200 km/h, the Gotthard Base Tunnel contributes to cost-effective, reliable and competitive passenger and freight rail transport between north and south along the TEN-T Rhine-Alpine Corridor. The NRLA was completed on 4 September 2020 with the official opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel. At the same time, the 4-metre corridor on the north-south axis became operational. From Basel to Chiasso, a total of twenty tunnels were adapted to allow the transport of semi-trailers with a total height of four metres.
The Agreement of Air Transport regulates Swiss airline companies’ access to the European deregulated market on a reciprocal basis. Swiss airlines are thus free to choose which destinations they wish to serve and the fares they want to charge for flights within Europe. Switzerland is also involved in the Single European Sky, a project that aims to streamline and modernise air traffic control in Europe so as to be able to respond to future requirements in terms of capacity and air safety.