From the opening of the Gotthard tunnel in 1882, the railways enjoy a lengthy period without competition in goods and passenger transport through the Alps. 1950 marks the beginning of an era of mass motorisation, as road transport captures significant shares of the market. Once the Gotthard road tunnel opens in 1980, just 10% of passengers are left using the railways, with almost 90% of traffic through the Alps going by road. Seeing their deficits rise, the SBB sound the alarm. In 1981, on the basis of deliberations regarding an overall transport strategy, the federal government sets out its requirements for a coordinated transport policy and a mandate, laying the foundations for an entrepreneurially run state rail company. The Confederation cancels the SBB’s debts and provides funding for the basic regional transport network.
« However, the SBB’s large deficits no longer allow for a policy of ‘wait and see’. »Federal Council, Dispatch on the mandate to the SBB, 13 May 1981