Switzerland is a true international crossroads: roads and railways, from Italy to the North Sea, from France to Austria and Germany, cross and cross it, causing an intense movement of travelers and goods.
With the development of motoring, roadways have regained importance, but railways still absorb most of the passenger and especially freight traffic. Roads and railways follow two main directions, transverse and longitudinal, of which especially the first of international importance. The central Plateau, especially to the NE., Is the region where they most intersect and thicken; the main traffic center is Basel, where the currents coming from the Alps and the Altipiano flock to flow into the upper Rhine Plain.
Switzerland, with 5,854.5 km. of railways (1933) is among the best equipped states in Europe; 3604 km. of lines are standard gauge; 1531 km. narrow gauge (to which must be added 248 km. of rack railway), more suitable for overcoming the steep slopes of mountain areas. Almost all narrow-gauge railways and 1600 km. of the standard gauge ones are electrified. In 1933 the railways of Switzerland transported a total of 158,904,000 passengers and 21,356,000 tons. of goods, very large quantities compared to the extension of the country and its population. The Basel railway junction is enriched by the traffic that flows from the Rhine valley and therefore from the Ruhr areas and the ports of the North Sea, Geneva of that coming from France, Brig and Bellinzona than that coming from the Po Valley and therefore from Genoa, from the Adriatic ports and from the East. In E. the Swiss railways are connected with those coming from Germany to Munich and from Austria to Arlberg; to NO. the railway lines that cross the Jura continue on French territory. The line with the greatest traffic, of the crossings, is that of the Gotthard.
Civil aviation depends on the railway department, under the direction of the federal aviation office. The air transport companies are Swissair, Alpar, Ostschweiz-Aëro-Gesellschaft and Aëro-Trafic. Swissair was formed by the two companies Ad Astra Aëro and Balair, and operates the following airlines: Basel-Zurich-Munich-Vienna; Geneva-Basel-Mannheim-Frankfurt-Cologne-Essen-Amsterdam (in conjunction with the German Luft-Hansa); Geneva-Berne-Zurich-Stuttgart-Halle-Berlin (id.); Zurich-Basel-Paris (in conjunction with Air-France); Geneva-Paris (id.); Basel-Cherbourg-Le-Havre (id., Postal only); Lucerne-Zurich. The company also carries out leisure flights over the Alps, hunting flights, for Africa, rental of equipment to individuals, aerial photography services, etc.,
Alpar operates the following airlines: Basel-Berne-Lausanne-Geneva; Bern- (Bienne) -Basilea; Basel-La Chaux de Fonds-Lausanne-Geneva; Lausanne-Bern. It also carries out special services and private flights. Ostschweiz-Aëro-Gesellschaft operates the Altenrhein (St. Gallen) -Zurich-Bern line. Aëro Trafic operates Geneva airport for leisure and private flights.
The Swiss 1st class airports are in Basel (Birnsfelden), Geneva (Cointrin) and Zurich (Dübendorf); those of 2nd class in Bern (Belpmoos), Lausanne (Blecherette) and Altenrhein (St. Gallen); a 3rd class airport is in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Customs waterways are in Geneva, Lausanne-Ouchy, Locarno, Lugano, Rorschach, Romanshorn, Zurich, Ermatingen, Kreuzlingen, Arbon and Altenrhein. An airport for internal traffic is in Bienne; a seaplane base for internal traffic is in Horgen. Private airports are in Porrentruy, Alle, Gland and Courtelary. Over twenty other airports are accessible with special permission. Even with a special permit you can access the winter airports (on frozen lakes) of Arosa and Saint Moritz.
At the end of 1933 Switzerland possessed 21,230 cars, 18,830 trucks, 34,514 motorcycles. Numerous public automobile services operate, especially those of a tourist type.
As for navigation, apart from the tourist one, only the services that take place on Lake Constance are of importance. Navigation on rivers has almost no importance today. We have already mentioned the project to redevelop the Rhône-Rhine waterway. The Rhine has risen up to Basel, which has a well-equipped river port, with boats loaded with cereals, metals and fuels.
Switzerland, where the International Postal Union is based in Bern, boasts an excellent postal service, and telephone and radio services are increasingly developed there.
With around 850 million francs on export and around 1500 on import (1934), that is 204 and 346 respectively. per resident, Switzerland ranks first in Europe in terms of trade intensity. To the special trade we must then add that of direct and indirect transit (about 2.5 million tons of direct transit in 1934).
The mirror in the following column gives the statistics of the special trade in the last ten years (value expressed in thousands of Swiss francs).
The balance of special trade therefore closes to the detriment of Switzerland, which despite the export of high-cost industrial products, has never managed to balance the expenses it encounters to procure food and industrial raw materials. However, the deficit is bridged by income from transit trade, the tourism industry, the export of electricity, income from companies set up by Swiss abroad and from Swiss capital employed abroad. The imbalance between imports and exports is much greater if we consider weight rather than value: Switzerland imports food and raw materials, exports high-cost industrial products in relation to weight and volume.
The articles affecting imports are: food, beverages and fodder, coal and mineral oils, iron and other metals, raw and already processed; silk, cotton, wool, rubber, as raw material or already worked; wood; glassware, chemicals, hides and skins, paper, tobacco, building materials.
Exports consist for the most part in manufactured products of the textile industries (silk fabrics and ribbons for about 100,000,000 francs, cottons and embroidery for over 100 million, straw braids), of the mechanical and watchmaking industry (machines and equipment, watches: a total of around 250 million francs), of the chemical industry (123 million francs), to which must be added aluminum; footwear, manufactured food products (cheese, condensed milk, chocolate, a total of 63 million francs, also in 1934).
The countries with which trade is most intense are: France, Great Britain, the United States, Italy, etc. The main suppliers are: Germany (388.5 million francs in 1934, over ¼ of the total value), France (230.4 million), Italy (116 million), Great Britain, United States, Argentina, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Austria, etc. Exports have a very vast range, extended to the whole world; However, a group of states and absorbs most are Germany (182 500 000 fr. in 1934; a bit ‘more than 1 / 5 of the total), France (121 600 000), Great Britain, Italy, United States.