Last weekend was an important one politically in Switzerland, and particularly in the canton of Neuchâtel, with a batch of topics up for vote in one of the country’s regular referendums. Various national and local proposals were rejected by the people, including the removal of certain public smoking areas, although resounding approval was given to a proposal relating to musical education in schools.
In Neuchâtel, however, the talk of the town was the high-profile local vote on proposals for a new RER (high speed train) service to link Neuchâtel with La Chaux-de-Fonds and, in so doing, replace the existing aged connection between two of the canton’s key urban areas. To the surprise of many officials, the plan was rejected, but by an incredibly tight margin; 50.29% said “non” as opposed to the 49.71% of voters who said “oui”. It was an incredibly slim difference of 392 votes.
There was disbelief in many quarters, with journalists lambasting the local people’s lack of ambition and the damaging effect that their decision could have on the canton’s future. The plan is unlikely to return any time soon because the money that was made available for the project will now be redistributed by the government. Conseiller national Christian van Singer described it as “une occasion manquée”.
The decision was never going to affect me during my time here, but it was interesting to follow nonetheless. This particularly divisive vote was probably more interesting to me because, where I come from, I’ve never had the opportunity to vote in a referendum of such local significance. They’ve never proposed a new high speed train link between my village and the local town. Shame. At least they did replace the buses on the bus route. The old ones were getting pretty grim.