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Additional external costs of transport (climate costs, soil & water damage, crop losses, etc.)

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects,
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

For Switzerland the external costs of transport have been calculated for the following categories:

  • Accident costs
  • Air Pollution costs (Health costs and building damages)
  • Noise costs
  • Nature and landscape costs.

In this study, the remaining categories of external costs of road and rail transport in Switzerland (year 2000) were examined.


This study aimed to give an estimated quantification of additional external costs of road and rail transport in Switzerland for the year 2000. The subjects of this study are climate change costs, additional external environmental costs (harvest losses, forest damage, damage to water structures, damage of the soil quality, vibrations and additional environmental costs in sensitive areas), additional costs in urban areas and additional external costs of up- and downstream processes.


For each cost category different estimation methods were applied:

  • Climate costs: avoiding costs/shadow prices in order to achieve a stabilisation of the greenhouse gas concentration, plus the costs for the remaining damages.
  • Crop losses due to air pollution (above all due to ozone): damage cost approach.
  • Forest damages due to air pollution: damage cost.
  • Soil pollution costs: repair costs.
  • Vibrations: repair costs; and alternatively damage costs.
  • Additional environmental costs in sensitive areas (Alps): willingness-to-pay approach for unspoilt landscape.
  • Additional costs in urban areas: time costs for pedestrian and infrastructure costs for separating motorised transport from human powered mobility.
  • Cost of up- and downstream processes (for instance energy production, vehicle and infrastructure production): shadow prices and damage costs.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE – Bundesamt für Raumentwicklung / Office fédéral du développement territorial / Ufficio federale dello sviluppo territoriale)
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Climate change costs of road and rail transport amount – depending on the view – to 500-2000 million CHF per year, almost 99% of these costs accrue in road transport. Additional external environmental costs (crop losses, forest damages, damages to water and soil quality, vibrations and additional environmental costs in sensitive areas) make up 300 million CHF per year, whereof around 92% are caused by road transport. Additional external costs in urban areas run to some 90 million CHF a year, again, road transport is responsible for around 79% of these costs. External costs of up- and downstream processes related to road and rail transport amount to 250-580 million CHF, depending on the view. The share of road transport of these costs is 92%, the corresponding figure of rail transport around 8%.

Conclusion of estimations:

  • With the exception of climate change costs as well as costs of up- and downstream processes, the dimensions of the additional external costs are lower than the quantified external costs to date of road and rail transport (accidents, nature and landscape, health costs, noise and building damages).
  • The most important cost category is climate change costs. Even when using low factors for avoidance or damage costs road and rail transport causes annual costs of approximately 0.5 to 1 billion CHF. A differentiated view (short term in order to achieve interim targets according to Kyoto-Protocol; long term to achieve targets until 2050/2010) is necessary in order to comply with the vast uncertainties. At the same time it is possible to have an international view on all sectors as well as a solely Swiss view (related to Swiss transport targets). This leads to a wide range of results in this cost category.
  • Another important category is the category of costs of up- and downstream processes. In this area, greenhouse gas emissions caused by production, maintenance and disposal processes of infrastructure, vehicles and rolling stock were quantified and valued with the help of the avoidance cost rates of the climate change cost approach. In the same manner emissions of greenhouse gases caused by the provision of energy sources (petrol and diesel in road transport resp. electricity in rail transport) were quantified and valued. Total costs are approximat

    Policy implications

    The calculations of the various areas have pointed out that the estimation methods due to different causes – esp. due to vast uncertainties with regard to future impacts of today’s emissions as well as partially unknown or hardly researched impact relations – are significantly more difficult to implement than standardised estimated external transport costs of accidents, noise or air pollution.

    The project was of the opinion that the estimation made in this study cannot be standardised the same way. An annual update is possible for climate change costs and costs for up- and downstream processes on the basis of the Swiss greenhouse gas inventory and handbook emission factors for road transport as well as standardised transport statistics data. The other cost areas need more intensive updating which will notably include current research results resp. new basic data (in particular GIS-data sets).

    For certain cost areas in-depth analyses are expedient:

    • In the climate area it is important to follow the current discussions on cost rates and to compare them with cost rates per tonne CO2-equivalent in this study. In parallel, it is worthwhile to update the climate change costs which are to be expected in Switzerland (damage costs). These costs are not analysed in this study and they should not be linked directly with Swiss transport emissions but should be communicated as an own estimation.
    • For the additional environmental costs, in-depth estimations are considered as less rewarding. A detailed analysis of additional costs in the Alpine region makes most sense. This means to some extent an analysis of additional costs are looked at which were not differentiated enough in the already existing estimations of external costs of transport in Switzerland (noise and air pollution of transit transport, nature and landscape). But at the same time it has to be noted that there are limits to the calculations of external costs in the Alpine region.
    • Additional costs in urban areas can only be quantified roughly with indirect approaches. Detailed analyses are possible when determining capacity costs (congestion costs, scarcity costs) for road and rail transport.
    • Costs of up- and downstream processes are to be looked at separately due to their status in the life cycle. To be looked at more closely would be the rail situation with a changed electricity mix (e.g. UCTE electricity mix) as well as external costs of additional emissions (air pollutants, water pollu


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