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External noise costs due to road and rail traffic in Switzerland

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


Background & Policy context

The Federal Office for Spatial Development is currently reconsidering all external effects caused by road and rail traffic.

The available data were partly based on relatively old calculations which are now brought up to date. Thus safety (accidents), health costs and damage to buildings due to air pollution as well as noise are evaluated.  


The objective of the present study is to establish the external noise costs caused by road and rail traffic in Switzerland in the year 2000.

The results are to be broken down into costs originating from passenger and from freight transport. Within the framework of the study i
t is not possible to cover all implications of noise. As ordered, this investigation into the costs of noise is thus limited to the spheres of residential usage (fall in rent payments, since demand on the housing market is lower for homes exposed to noise than for comparable homes in quiet locations) and human health (noise pollution can result in physical and mental disorders and can damage health).

Further cost components, such as losses arising from the exclusion or non-inclusion of land in zoning plans, costs caused by attempts to escape noise, and difficulties in concentrating at school and at work, are consequently not covered by the present study.


The following methodological approach has been chosen to establish noise costs:

  • The basis of monetarisation is a detailed investigation into noise pollution caused by road and rail traffic in Switzerland in the year 2000.

  • On the basis of the number of homes exposed to noise, lost rent payments are to be established. This requires the determination of the relationship between rent levels and noise pollution, and of the average rent level.

  • Exposure to noise also results in additional damage to health. Firstly, the link between noise pollution and poor health is established and then used as a basis for calculating noise-related incidences of illness and death. These are then converted into monetary units.

  • The sum of lost rent payments and health costs gives the total cost of the noise produced by traffic. It is impossible to calculate the costs of noise without first making assumptions and simplifications.

This project is therefore based on the principle of being 'as realistic as possible but, if in doubt, conservative'.

In practice this means that, wherever uncertainties exist, the assumptions that have been made are cautious and will tend to result in actual costs being underestimated rather than overestimated. In the literature, this principle is often referred to as the 'at least approach'.


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)


Traffic causes noise costs of 998 million CHF in total. Road traffic is responsible for 87% or 869 million CHF, while rail traffic accounts for the remaining 13% or 129 million CHF. These noise costs of just under one billion Swiss francs correspond to 140 CHF per head of population, or compared to GDP it is in the order of magnitude of 0.25%. The majority of the costs arise in the form of lost house rents (88% or 874 million CHF from traffic overall, 89% or 770 million CHF from road traffic and 81% or 104 million CHF from rail traffic).

Rent is lost primarily in the middle range of the noise classes from 60 to 69 dB(A).


Health costs account for the remaining 12% or 124 million CHF (road: 11% or 99 million CHF, rail 19% or 25 million CHF).

The great majority of health costs (95%) are intangible costs (pain and suffering) that are measured in terms of willingness to pay.


Another distribution of the health costs shows that 81% of costs are caused by lost in years of life. Ultimately, 76% of health costs derive from diseases related to hypertension, while 24% are caused by ischaemic heart diseases. Passenger transport is responsible for 65% of the costs, or 651 million CHF (road 63% or 550 million CHF, rail 79% or 101 million CHF). Freight transport is the cause of the remaining 35% or 347 million CHF (road 37% or 320 million CHF, rail 21% or 27 million CHF).

Policy implications

It must be emphasized once again that the external costs of noise reported here reflect the impact on rents in the residential sector and on health only. This study does not cover the implications of noise in other areas, such as losses resulting from the exclusion or noninclusion of land in zoning plans, costs caused by attempts to escape noise and difficulties in concentrating at school and at work.

The noise costs reported here therefore clearly underestimate the costs actually incurred as a result of noise. Furthermore, there are inherent uncertainties in the calculations presented here. As mentioned above, we have applied an at least approach, i.e. assumptions have been made according to the principle of being 'as realistic as possible but, if in doubt, conservative'. This is another reason that the reported costs significantly underestimate the actual loss.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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