Freight transport

A container train passing through Switzerland.
Freight transport container train travelling through the Alps
© SBB Cargo

The Federal Office of Transport FOT ensures that rail freight traffic has good framework conditions. It implements the principle enshrined in the Federal Constitution of transferring transalpine freight traffic from road to rail. The framework conditions are intended to enable the sustainable development of inland, import and export traffic.

The railways play an important role in carrying freight: for transport through the Alps they have a market share of about 70%. The market share of rail in inland, import and export traffic is about a quarter.

The FOT establishes framework conditions for the sustainable development of freight transport and efficient collaboration between all modes of transport. One of the tools for this is the ‘Konzept für den Gütertransport auf der Schiene’ (Plan for freight transport by rail, in German). The Confederation also participates, via investment credits, in the construction, extension and renewal of suitable freight facilities such as feeder tracks and transhipment terminals for combined transport, and ensures non-discriminatory access to these facilities. The Confederation can also award investment grants for technical innovations in rail freight transport.

Through the ‘Network usage concept’ and ‘Network usage plan’, the Confederation also ensures that there are attractive rights (train paths) for freight traffic on the rail network, and that it is not displaced by the expansion of passenger traffic.

To transfer transalpine freight transport from road to rail, the base tunnels of the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) were built and a heavy goods vehicle charge was introduced. Furthermore, all freight railways were granted access to the rail network.


Favourable framework conditions should make rail freight services economically viable. Accordingly, operating subsidies for transalpine combined transport are reduced year by year. In addition, federal funding of procurement by the cantons (freight transport by narrow-gauge railways) is limited to 2027.