• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Neuchâtel's billion-franc rail plan draws flak

Malcolm Curtis · 28 Aug 2012, 08:23

Published: 28 Aug 2012 08:23 GMT+02:00

The TransRun project would provide a new, faster rail link between Neuchâtel and watch-making centre La Chaux-de-Fonds.

At a budgeted 830 million francs, the line largely running through tunnels would cut time for the train trip by half to 14 minutes from the current route.

Together with other regional improvements costing 89 million francs, TransRun is designed to improve rail travel to other cities, such as Biel, Bern, Fribourg and Lausanne.

Philippe Gnaegi, head of the cantonal government and a member of the right-of-centre Liberal-Radical party, called the proposal “a good project, validated by experts” at a press conference on Monday.

A referendum on the project is set for September 23rd.

The government and an overwhelming majority of MPs in the canton’s parliament back TransRun as indispensable for the future of Neuchâtel’s economy.
 
But opponents, including members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, have mounted a vociferous campaign against the project.

They argue that it is unaffordable and will leave the canton heavily in debt.

Supporters say the costs are manageable, with the federal government and Swiss Federal Railways, the state-owned rail company, picking up 349 million francs of the tab.

The remainder would be divided between the canton (60 percent) and participating municipalities (40 percent).

To allay financial concerns, the cantonal government has promised to run balanced budgets during the 25-year period it would take to repay financing for the project.

If approved, the new network would be completed by 2022.

The cantonal government says the project is crucial in making Neuchâtel a more attractive place to live and invest in by improving mobility and bringing the canton’s most important cities closer together.

La Chaux-de-Fonds, awarded world heritage status by Unesco along with Le Locle in 2009, is famous for its planned residential and manufacturing buildings, designed in the 19th century after a fire to meet the needs of watch-making firms.

Its physical separation from Neuchâtel is enhanced by a marked difference in elevation.

Located in the Jura mountains at an altitude of 1,000 metres, La Chaud-de-Fonds (population 38,000) is 570 metres above Neuchâtel, a city of 34,000 overlooking Lake Neuchâtel.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Two dead in Swiss army helicopter crash

Two people died and one other was injured when a helicopter crashed on the Gotthard pass in the Swiss alps on Wednesday.

Bern wants Swiss women to work longer
File photo: Candida Performa

The lower house of parliament has voted to extend women's retirement age by one year to 65.

11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
The Swiss - don't make them wait in the cold. Photo: Lara de Salis

Swiss student Lara de Salis, currently studying in the UK, explains why she’s sick of hearing foreigners spouting these old clichés.

Switzerland still world’s ‘most competitive’ nation
Switzerland: still enjoying the view from the top. File photo: Robert Boesch

Switzerland has topped the World Economic Forum’s annual competitiveness ranking for the eighth consecutive year.

Swiss hunting season claims human lives
The hunting season started ten days ago. File photo: Umberto Nicoletti

Several hunters have died in accidents over the past few days.

Sacked Fifa executive hits back in Zurich court
Kattner was sacked in May. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Fifa's disgraced former secretary general Markus Kattner has begun legal action to challenge his "unjustified" sacking.

Switzerland edges towards nationwide burqa ban
The burqa is already banned in the canton of Ticino. File photo: Antoine Taveneaux

The Swiss lower house of parliament has narrowly approved the idea.

WHO calls for action against air pollution
File photo: Issouf Sarego/AFP

Nine out of 10 people globally are breathing poor quality air, the World Health Organization has said.

Two arrested in police raid on Basel mosque
File photo: Michele Limini/AFP

Police in Basel raided a controversial mosque in the city and arrested two people on Tuesday morning, Swiss media reported.

Families slapped with hefty rise in health costs
File photo: Marcel Grieder

Health insurance premiums will rise by on average 4.5 percent for adults and 6.6 percent for children in 2017.

Sponsored Article
7 tips for learning Swiss French
Photo: AFP
National
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
National
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Photo: File
Politics
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Education
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
Photo: AFP
Society
Swiss ‘slave children’ to finally get compensation
Photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss-image.ch
Lifestyle
Zurich named ‘greenest’ city on the planet
Photo: Swiss
National
Brawl over seats forces Swiss to abort flight
Photo: Daniel Stockhammer
Culture
Research shows typical Swiss chalets ‘not actually Swiss’
Photo: AFP
National
Switzerland to get nationwide disaster alert system
Photo: S3
National
Swiss space firm boss left badly injured in violent attack
Photo: ETH Zurich
Education
ETH Zurich crowned best uni in continental Europe – again
File photo: Martin Abegglen
National
Report: Swiss citizenship rules leave some stateless
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
Fatal crash: pilot told to fly below safe altitude
Photo: Peter Linke
Business & Money
Elderly Italian on benefits stashed €1m in Swiss bank
Photo: Stuart Richards
Society
Court sides with chickens in dispute over noisy henhouse
Photo: SAC
Lifestyle
Hiking: 7 incredible Swiss Alpine Club cabins
Photo: David Abercrombie
National
Swiss politician arrested over illegal entry of migrants
Photo: Coiffure X
National
Chewbacca stolen in ‘terrorist attack’ on Swiss hair salon
Photo: AFP
National
Foreigners in Switzerland surpass 2 million mark
Photo: AFP
National
Expert predicts major quake for Switzerland by 2040
Photo: The Local
National
Geneva runs out of permits for non-EU workers
Photo:C Carlstead
National
Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
4,331
jobs available