9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN30 Youth and Generation

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mobility and Urban Space Building II, B2.02

Urban transformation due to the urbanization of a peripheral region in Switzerland - an European example

A unique process is currently evident in Switzerland that is accelerating and magnifying urban development and expansion at an extreme and unprecedented pace. The building of a new railway tunnels is providing Berne with vastly enlarged commuter belts - representing an extreme convergence between previously peripheral, quite unspoilt regions and the centres.

This development involves the opening of the Lötschberg base tunnel in 2007 - a railway tunnel that closely connects the area known as Oberwallis with the commuting area of the canton of Berne. This has reduced the journey time between Visp and Berne, for example, from two hours to less than one hour.

The metropolis of Berne is now extending out into natural and recreational regions that were previously inaccessible within a practicable time. It will now be possible to commute from these areas to the city very quickly. City-dwellers will be able to live in the green areas and in unorganized nature. The local identity becomes global.

Questionnaire surveys conducted during the present study have shown that there is already a tremendous increase in the demand for accommodation in the peripheral region concerned, especially by young people. Figures for numbers of inhabitants, which have been stagnating for years in the areas affected, have recently increased tremendously. The peripheral area behind the Swiss mountains is becoming continuous with the urban region in front of the mountains. At the same time, it can already be expected that the periphery, untouched nature, will lose its status. The pressure on the local authorities to build new residential accommodation and business premises is too great. More land is being made available and more natural areas are being spoilt.

The peripheral region is having urbanization as a result of people?s increasing mobility - while at the same time, however, the development of the centre is left unaffected by the periphery. The peripheral region is becoming urban, but still remain merely a satellite of the metropolis, so that they are losing all of their special qualities. All that is left is urban transformation - the total urbanization of the whole of Switzerland in the middle of Europe.