This story has absolutely no economic significance. I’ve just always admired the Swiss approach to national security, and I’m a little sad to see the bombs under their bridges dismantled.
With its cobbled streets and ornate houses, Bad Säckingen has little of the front line about it. But until recently, that is exactly how Swiss military planners conceived the picturesque town on the banks of the Rhine.
Like numerous other crossings between Switzerland and Germany, the bridge linking Bad Säckingen on the German side with Stein in Switzerland was fitted with explosives so that it could be detonated in the event of an attack.
The incendiary devices were part of a last-ditch defensive system built to protect Switzerland during the cold war. It is only now, 25 years after the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, that the last vestiges of that system are being dismantled. Due to be completed by year-end, by a quirk of fate the conclusion of the process comes just as east-west relations are at their lowest ebb since the fall of the Berlin wall.
Switzerland installed the explosives at strategic locations along its borders and on transport routes as early as the 19th century, and did so on a larger scale during the second world war. But it was only in 1975, with the introduction of what was known as the Permanent Explosive Deployment 75 programme that it took a more systematic approach to where it planted the hidden charges.
At its peak, the Swiss defensive network involved roughly 2,000 separate structures fitted with explosives. These ranged from bridges to tunnels — such as the Gotthard tunnel through the Alps — to roads and airstrips.
The idea was that the explosive-laden structures would deter aggressors considering an invasion. Failing that, the series of defensive lines would slow down and use up the resources of the invaders to give the Swiss time to prepare their defences.
Full Financial Times article can be read here.