Planning approval procedure

Buildings and installations regarding railways, trams, trolley buses, cableways and (inland) navigation, require planning approval from the FOT. This is equivalent to a construction permit. During the planning approval procedure, the FOT checks whether the project complies with the relevant technical regulations, whether the rights of those affected are safeguarded and whether the federal provisions relating to spatial planning and environmental, natural and cultural heritage protection are met.

The planning approval procedure is a construction permit procedure managed by the Federal Office of Transport (FOT). It is governed by the legislation on railways (see Art. 18 ff. Railways Act, RailA), but also applies to tram, trolley bus and navigation installations. Cableways are subject to similar provisions under the Cableways Act (see Art. 9 ff. CabA). In planning approval procedures, for example, railway tracks, bridges or tunnels, trolleybus overhead lines, cableways or landing facilities for shipping are examined and approved.

With planning approval, the FOT issues all the permits required under federal law; no additional cantonal permits are required.

Ordinary and simplified planning approval procedures

The procedural steps described refer to the ordinary planning approval procedure. This is the procedure used in most cases. (Art. 18 et seq. RailA).The simplified planning approval procedure is applied

  • to localised projects that affect a small number of clearly identifiable interested parties,
  • to modifications or conversions of existing installations that do not significantly alter their external appearance, do not affect the significant interests of third parties and have no significant spatial or environmental impact, and
  • to installations which are removed after three years at the latest.

Detailed plans based on a previously approved project are also approved under the simplified procedure.

Under the simplified procedure, there is no need for official notice to be given or plans to be made available for inspection. Instead, the draft plans are submitted to those concerned for comment, unless they have previously given their written consent to the plans. The FOT may request an opinion from the cantons and communes concerned (cf. Art. 18i RailA).

Building without a permit

Under certain conditions, installations may be constructed or modified without planning approval. This is possible if these installations do not affect any legitimate interests related to spatial planning, environmental protection, nature conservation and heritage protection or involving third parties, and no licensing requirement arises under other federal legislation (Art. 1a of the Ordinance on the Planning Approval Procedure for Railway Installations, PAPRO). The installations eligible for this or their modifications are listed in the Appendix to PAPRO is a conclusive list.

From 1 January 2018, the Cableways Act regulates construction without a permit in the same way as railways legislation in the new Article 15a.