The first road from Aosta to Vevey passing through the Grand-Saint-Bernard and the North embankment of Lake Geneva is owed to the Roman Emperor Claude. For 3 centuries, it provided the fastest route between Italy and the Northern Alps. The Roman mile-marker set in a column in the Church of Saint-Saphorin dating back to 47 AD is a major historical and geographical reference to the Roman’s way across the Alps. The roadways were majorly developed throughout the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century (the cantonal road along the edge of the lake and the construction of roads climbing the slopes of Lavaux) before the construction of the “Léman” motorway (A9) with its daring bridges, tunnels, retaining structures and viaducts. Today, 80% of traffic uses this faster alternate route.
Lake Geneva, the largest body of fresh water in Western Europe, made for privileged routes between the French and Swiss embankments. The transportation of military personnel, goods, locals and tourists alike was a regular occurrence. The first steamboats were put into operation between 1820 and 1830. Nowadays the “Compagnie générale de navigation” (General Nautical Company) operates around 20 units carrying 130 to 1500 travellers and the “Belle-Epoque” paddle-boats are almost 100 years old. In 1861 the lake routes were doubled with the introduction of the “Jura-Simplon” railway linking Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux to the French-speaking region of the Valais. Milan was then added to the route in 1905 through the Simplon tunnel. In 1862, the Lausanne-Fribourg-Bern line was introduced followed by the private Vevey-Chexbres line in 1904 (which is one of the steepest lines with a 38% gradient) linking the Simplon line to Vevey and the Bern line to Puidoux-Chexbres.
Source : BOVY, Philippe, ZURBRUCHEN, Bernard, « Voies de communication », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 117-120.