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External Costs and Internalisation: Regional Impacts

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Complete with results
Project Acronym
D4 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects,
Societal/Economic issues


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs.

The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy. Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects 
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts
  • M Materials
  • S Synthesis Projects

Distribution Effects of External Costs:


The bases of current transport policy issues in Switzerland and Europe have so far been devised with a view to achieving a sounder allocation in the field of transport which is better for the environment and fairer towards the parties creating the burdens.

There is now greater emphasis on clarifying the effects of distribution policy, especially at regional level, in planning future Swiss transport policy and in discussions of new instruments of transport policy and investment projects.

Distribution effects play a major role in evaluating transport measures and finding acceptance for them. Such effects should therefore be known.


The present study investigates the regional distribution of external costs in Switzerland, specifically the distribution of the burdens of external costs on the 106 MS ('mobilité spatiale') regions.

It then determines the effects of two different internalisation scenarios ('financing' and 'social marginal cost pricing') on the regional distribution of burdens of external costs.

In addition, the compensating effects of two different refund scenarios for internalisation revenues are identified for the scenario of internalisation by 'financing'.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


External costs: significant regional differences


The costs of transport not covered by transport-related taxes can differ significantly in the various regions of Switzerland.

For the first time, we now have some fundamental facts regarding these variations.

The deficits incurred by public transport are carried by all taxpayers, albeit with regional differences, and a heavier burden on the more affluent central regions. The mountain regions suffer more than the central regions from environmental damage and particularly from the expected global warming and damage to forests.


This results in uneven burdens, with the mountain regions covering annual costs of up to CHF 4,000 per capita. Urban areas also pay above average because of high air pollution and other factors. Some regions cover costs four times higher than in other regions (between CHF 900 and CHF 4,000 per annum and capita).


The authors demonstrate how these variations could be reduced, and financed through restructuring of the road taxation system, for example.

Outlook: It has been shown that individual burdens are hard to regionalise (accident costs) while others can hardly be influenced by better allocation in Switzerland (climate effects).

A regional analysis of those causing the external effects would be desirable for the debate of forthcoming transport proposals. Then it would be possible not only to show which regions bear what burdens and how much relief they would gain from internalisation measures, but also which regions shift external costs and would be financially burdened for this in internalisation.


In future it would be desirable to have a model of heavy goods vehicle transport (this would not be modelled in isolation, but in relation to passenger car use). After the reform of the railways and the new system of railway accounting, various bases of railway accounting should change sharply, so that they will have to be remodelled.


The external costs of transport to nature and landscape should also be recorded on a regional basis as soon as the results of the research now under way become available.


The results obtained in this study make it possible to draw conclusions at the level of the mobilité spatiale regions (or other regions consisting of municipalities) concerning the regional effects of transport proposals on the external cost areas ex

Policy implications

Evaluations and recommendations based on the analysis of the regional distribution of burdens from external costs of transport:

  • In addition to the heavily burdened central regions, the peripheral sub-Alpine and Alpine regions deserve greater attention, not only with regard to arterial transit routes.
  • The rational continuance and/or reinforcement of clean air policy in transport is compelling from the point of view of distribution policy and relieves the present problem regions (urban centres and sub-Alpine/Alpine regions).
  • Climate policy and the relevant instruments are largely complementary to a transport policy which meets mobility needs in a safe and ecological way.
  • Internalisation by means of taxes (linked to travel-distance as far as possible) is in the interest of a more durable mobility management which is acceptable in regional policy. It allows the financing of ecological public transport. Public transport financing should gain in importance in future. Assuring it is very important to the environment of the regional economies of decentralised regions.
  • Noise abatement in public transport and its financing are central to ecological public transport.
  • The present transport policy strategies are heading in the right direction from the point of view of regional distribution: shifting road freight on to rail, taxation of heavy goods transport, combined with compensation packages for disadvantaged regions and selective expansion of public transport. Any redimensioning proposals for public transport in semi-rural, rural or alpine regions should be made with regard to the regional burdens from external effects recorded in those areas.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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