European transport ministers visit the NRLA construction site at Sedrun

On July 17, 2009, Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger accompanied European transport politicians on a visit to the underground construction site of the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) at Sedrun to demonstrate to them Switzerland's policy of transferring traffic from road to rail. When completed, the NRLA will have a positive effect on the traffic flow between northern and southern Europe, stated European Commissioner for Transport Antonio Tajani. In particular, it will contribute to the ecologically sustainable transport of goods through the Alps, asserted the Vice President of the European Commission.

In addition to Antonio Tajani, Leuenberger's invitation to visit the construction site of the Gotthard Base Tunnel was also accepted by the transport ministers of Austria and the United Kingdom, Doris Bures und Lord Andrew Adonis, as well as Dominique Bussereau, the French Secretary of State for Transport, and Johannes Ludewig, Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER).

Construction projects such as the NRLA will "remove the Alpine barrier to communications between the South and North of Europe, make Europe more competitive, and at the same time contribute to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants", stated Minister Bures. She described the NRLA as a "great technical achievement" and a "railway tunnel of superlatives".

The Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) used the occasion to inform his guests about Switzerland's policy of transferring traffic from road to rail (heavy vehicle tax, harmonisation of the international railway systems, interoperability, Alptransit exchange). The policy increasingly serves as a model throughout Europe.

By 2011, during Switzerland's presidency of the Zurich Process – a cooperation platform of transport ministers of the Alpine countries – Federal Councillor Leuenberger wants to define ground rules for an Alptransit exchange. The process will include evaluation of whether control instruments such as the Alptransit exchange, sophisticated toll systems, and emissions trading can be combined.

Opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which runs from Erstfeld in the canton of Uri to Bodio in the canton of Ticino, is planned to take place in 2017. The Lötschberg Base Tunnel has been in operation since 2007. The two tunnels form the main axis of the NRLA. The flat transalpine route on the Gotthard axis will be completed with the Ceneri Base Tunnel which is scheduled to go into operation in 2019.