No. 450.
Mr. Rublee to Mr. Fish.

No. 146.]

Sir: The special session of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, held to consider and act upon applications for concessions for railways, closed on yesterday, after granting a large number of such concessions.

Considerable time was spent in agreeing upon a form for concessions conforming to the general railway law of the 23d of December last, copies of which I forwarded to the Department with my No. 118, of the 11th of January. I inclose two copies, together with a translation of the concession which it was determined to adopt as the model for future concessions, and also two copies of the regulations issued by the Federal Council under the act of December last, prescribing the steps necessary to be taken in applying for a railway concession, and the plans and documents required to be presented to the Federal Council before and after the construction of a railway.

I have, &c.,

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The Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation, in view of the request of the committee of initiation, dated 26th March, 1873, for a concession for a railway from Thun to Konolfingen, and of the letters of said committee of the 19th, 22d, and 27th of May, 1873, with inclosures, and in view of the message of the Federal Council of the 18th of June, 1873, decrees:

A concession is accorded to the committee of initiative for the establishment of a railway from Thun to Konolfingen, to construct and operate a railway from Konolfingen to Thun, via Drisbach and eventually from Konolfingen to Drisbach, upon the conditions mentioned in the following articles:

1. The federal laws and all other prescriptions of the federal authorities relative to the establishment and operation of Swiss railways are to be strictly observed, at what time soever they may go into effect.

2. The concession is accorded for the term of 80 years, dating from October 1, 1873.

3. The seat of the company is at Berne.

4. The majority of the directors and of the council of administration must be composed of Swiss citizens, having their domicile in Switzerland.

5. Within 12 months from the date of the grant of the concessions the grantees must present to the Federal Council the technical and financial documents prescribed by the law or the regulations, as well as the statutes of the company. The grading of the route must begin before the 1st of January, 1875.

6. The line must be completed and ready for operation by September 1, 1876.

7. The Federal Council is authorized, even after it has approved the survey, to require modifications thereof, if they should be necessary for the security of the operation of the road.

8. The road will be a single-track road.

9. Objects of scientific interest that may be discovered during the work of construction, such as fossils, coins, medals, &c., are the property of the canton of Berne, and must be sent free of charge to the cantonal government.

10. The administration of the road must furnish facilities to the federal functionaries charged with the surveillance of the construction and operation of the road, for the performance of their duties, by permitting them to inspect at all times the several parts of the route, and by placing at their disposition such assistants and means as are necessary.

11. The Federal Council may require that employés of the company who, in the exercise of their functions, give rise to well-founded complaints, and against whom the company neglect to take the necessary measures, may be called to order, punished, or, if necessary, dismissed.

12. Three passenger-trains, at least, will run daily in each direction over the whole line, stopping at all the stations.

The passenger-trains, comprising those designated as mixed trains, will have an average speed of at least twenty-four kilometers the hour. A less rate of speed is admissible only in the case of a special authorization of the Federal Council.

13. The regulations respecting transportation, which must be submitted to the Federal Council at least three months before the road goes into operation, cannot be put in force until formally approved. Every modification of the same must also be submitted to the approval of the Federal Council.

14. For the transport of passengers the company will establish three classes of cars, constructed after the American system. In general, each train will include cars of all the classes; exceptions to this rule can only be authorized by the Federal Council. The so-called mixed train may run without cars of the first class.

The company must at all times do all in its power to enable persons who present themselves to take tickets for a passenger-train, to be taken by the train in question, and to have seats therein.

Upon the demand of the Federal Council passenger-cars must be attached to freight-trains. The provisions of section 2 of article 12 are not applicable in this case.

15. The company is authorized to collect for the transport of passengers, by passenger-trains, a tax of which the maximum is fixed as follows:

  • First class, ten centimes the kilometer.
  • Second class, seven centimes the kilometer.
  • Third class, five centimes the kilometer.

The passengers carried by freight-trains the tax will be at least twenty per cent. less than the above.

In all classes children under three years of age, not occupying a seat, will be carried without charge; those between the ages of three to ten at one-half the tax. Each passenger is entitled to take with him ten kilograms of baggage free of charge, upon condition that it shall not be of a nature to incommode other passengers. The maximum tax for other baggage is fixed at two and one-half centimes the kilometer for fifty kilograms.

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The company is bound to grant a reduction of twenty per cent. from the ordinary tax for tickets to go and return during the same or the following day.

It will grant a further reduction for tickets of subscription taken by passengers who propose to go over the same portion of the road, going and returning at least twelve times during a period of three months.

16. Indigent persons, who establish their character by a certificate from the proper authority, must be carried at half the ordinary rates. Upon the order of the federal or cantonal police authorities, persons under arrest must be carried on similar terms by the railway. Further regulations in this regard will be adopted by the Federal Council.

17. The maximum tariff for the transportation of cattle by freight-trains is fixed as follows by the head and the kilometer:

  • Horses, mules, and colts more than one year old, sixteen centimes.
  • Bulls, oxen, cows, heifers, asses, and young foals, eight centimes.
  • Calves, hogs, sheep, goats, and dogs, three centimes.
  • This tariff will be reduced twenty per cent. for the transport of herds filling an entire car.

18. Classes will be made for merchandise, the highest of which shall not pay more than one centime and the lowest not more than one-half centime for fifty kilograms the kilometer. An abatement will be made on merchandise transported by the carload, (that is, for 5,000 kilograms, or five tons.) Raw material used chiefly for agricultural or manufacturing purposes, such as wood, coal, minerals, iron, salt, stone, manures, &c., by the car-load, will be taxed at the lowest possible rates.

For the transport of coin and valuables, the value of which is declared, the tax is not to exceed one centime the kilometer upon the value of 1,000 francs.

When cattle or merchandise are to be transported by express, the tax upon cattle may be increased forty per cent., and on merchandise one hundred per cent., above ordinary rates.

Agricultural products which the owners take with them on a passenger-train, though in a car apart, and receive immediately on reaching their place of destination, are exempt from tax if not exceeding 25 kilograms in weight. What exceeds this weight is subject to the ordinary tax of merchandise.

The company may require that merchandise forwarded, not exceeding 25 kilograms in weight, shall be sent by express, and may fix at its pleasure the tax for the transport of carriages and exceptional objects.

The minimmn of tax for carrying a package may be fixed at 40 centimes.

19. In case of necessity, and especially when articles of food are exceptionally dear, the company is bound to introduce a lower special tariff for the transportation of grain, flour, vegetables, potatoes, &c. The terms of the tariff will be fixed by the Federal Council.

20. In the stipulation of taxes, the fractions of a kilometer will be reckoned as a whole kilometer. In regard to weight, goods sent, up to 25 kilograms, will be reckoned as 25 kilograms, and for merchandise sent by slow trains, from 25 to 50 kilograms as 50 kilograms. The excess of weight, (for baggage of passengers and merchandise by express above 25 kilograms, and for merchandise by slow trains above 50 kilograms,) is reckoned by units of 5 kilograms, each fraction of 5 kilograms being reckoned as a unit. In case of coin, or valuables, fractions of 500 francs will be reckoned as 500 francs. If the figure thus obtained is not exactly divisible by 5, it may be increased to the next multiple of 5.

21. The figures of taxes established by articles 15, 17, and 18 are applicable to transports from one to another station. The goods are to be delivered by the sender at the place of loading, and are to be taken by the person to whom they are addressed at the station to which they are destined. However, the company is to establish, itself, suitable arrangements for the cartage of goods and their delivery to the consignees. The loading and unloading of merchandise must be done by the company, and, as a rule, it cannot collect any special tax therefor. This rule can only be departed from with the assent of the Federal Council for certain classes of goods taken by car-loads entire, for live animals, and other articles, the shipment of which is attended with peculiar difficulties.

22. Special rules and tariffs will be established for the details of transportation.

23. All tariffs must be submitted to the approval of the Federal Council at least six weeks before the railway is opened for business.

24. If during three consecutive years the net proceeds of the enterprise exceed eight per cent., the maximum of taxes for transportation stipulated in this act shall be reduced in an equitable proportion. If the Federal Council and the company fail to agree in relation thereto, the Federal Assembly will decide.

If the proceeds of the enterprise fail to cover the cost of operating the road, the interest on the capital being included, the Federal Council may allow a reasonable increase of rates. However, these dispositions will be submitted to the approval of the Federal Assembly.

25. In cases where the company may intend to make fundamental changes in the [Page 1100] tariffs, it must submit the project, with the new tariff, to the approval of the Federal Assembly.

26. The company is bound to grant free access to the stations, to the functionaries charged by the Federal Council with the duty of supervising the operating of the railway; it is, besides, to guarantee them office-room without charge.

27. The following regulations will be applied for the exercise of the rights of repurchase by the confederation, or by the canton of Berne if the confederation does not exercise its right:

The repurchase cannot take place before the 1st of May, 1903, but may be made at any time after that date. Notice must be given to the company three years in advance of the repurchase.
In consequence of the repurchase, the buyer becomes proprietor of the line, with its material and all other appurtenances. In any case the right of third parties are undisturbed as relates to provisions made for pensions and aid. At whatever epoch the repurchase occurs, the road, with all its belongings, is to be delivered to the confederation, or to the canton of Berne, in a perfectly satisfactory condition. In the case that this condition should not be satisfied, and when the reserved funds do not suffice to cover the costs of putting the road in order, a proportional amount of the purchase-money will be withheld.
The indemnity for the repurchase will equal, in case of repurchase up to May 1, 1918, twenty-five times the amount of the average of the net proceeds during the ten years immediately preceding the epoch at which notice of the repurchase has been given the company; in case the repurchase takes place between the 1st of May, 1918, and the 1st of May, 1933, twenty-two and one-half times, and between the 1st of May, 1933, and the expiration of the concession, at twenty times the said amount of the net proceeds.
It is well understood, however, that the indemnity cannot in any case be less than the cost of the first establishment of the existing works, as shown by the accounts, deduction, however, being made for amount of the funds for repairs and reserve funds. In estimating the cost of construction and the net proceeds, the railway enterprise conceded by this present act will alone be taken into consideration, to the exclusion of any branch line that may be joined to it.
The net proceeds consist of the amount of the receipt over and above the cost of operating the road. In the last all sums are included carried to the account of operating the road or placed in the reserved fund.
In the case of the repurchase at the expiration of the concession, the purchaser may either reimburse the amount of the original cost of the line, or may demand that the indemnity to be paid be fixed by an estimate of the federal tribunal.
Differences which may arise upon the subject of the repurchase are to be determined by the federal tribunal.

28. In case the canton of Berne shall have effected the repurchase of the road, the confederation may, nevertheless, at any time avail itself of its right to repurchase, as defined in Article 27, and the canton of Berne is bound to cede the line to the confederation, with the same rights and obligations which were ceded to it by the company.

29. The federal council is charged with the execution of the prescriptions of the present concession, which will go into force from the day of its promulgation.