Discussions of the NRLA frequently invoke the long tradition of transport routes through Switzerland's Alpine landscape. In the Middle Ages, vital mule tracks lead over the Gotthard and the passes of Bern and Valais. The first paved road in the mountains, over the Simplon Pass, is completed in 1805, followed in the 1820s by a further road over the Gotthard. The hairpin bends of the Tremola road become an icon of mountain road construction. They are joined in the 1860s by the Axen road, the first continuous route to the pass from the north. With the opening of rail lines at the Gotthard (1882), Simplon (1905) and Lötschberg (1913), these roads lose their importance to through traffic. They experience a revival in the inter-war years, however, thanks to tourism and the rise of the motor car.
« One does not travel in order to arrive, but for its own sake. »Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Letter to Caroline Herder, 05/09/1788