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Funding tomorrow's transport systems

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Complete with results
Project Acronym
D9 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport policies
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

The following study treats the questions 'who is funding what in Swiss transport policy' and 'who should be funding what in the future'.

The study:

  • makes a survey on transport funding in Switzerland, the challenges Swiss transport policy is facing, and some trends in European transport funding,
  • analyses the weaknesses of the present transport funding system, mainly in the field of road infrastructure,
  • presents a range of institutional and financial reforms that lead to a more cost-efficient and user-paid transport system,
  • shows the time-horizon needed for the political implementation of those reforms.

The study is based on economic theory as well as on an empirical database from Switzerland and abroad.


See objectives


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


New structures for subsidies


Every year the Federal Government, the Cantons, and communities spend nearly CHF 30 billion on private and public transport.


This study clarifies and analyses these complex financial flows and demonstrates how all these various subsidies actually undermine the economic and responsible utilisation of resources.

Redistribution of resources through road financing alone has reached such a level that some Cantons profit by CHF 200 per capita, whereas others lose the same amount, although this redistribution is quite unintentional and unregulated.


The authors suggest a reform package with the objective of restructuring these unfathomable flows of finance, and increasing their efficiency. Measures suggested include transferral of motorways operations to independent organisations; simplifying the Federal subsidy system, and increasing support to the cities for their public transport responsibilities and treating investments in public transport the same way as operating deficits.


Combined urban transport authorities are proposed to be responsible for transport-related revenues and expenses within one region.

Policy implications

Reform of transport funding in Switzerland:


1. The national motorways: managed by firms and funded through user fees.

This reform proposal has the following cornerstones: 

• Independent managing firms:

Construction and maintenance of the national motorways will be in the responsibility of managing firms that are independent from the public administration. These firms will get a concession sold in an auction and valid for 10 to 15 years.

• Funding through user fees:

The managing firms are funded through user fees. The firms have the right to set prices freely. Prices are only subject to the existing regulations on cartels and monopolies.

• 'Financial equalisation':

'Deficit' motorways are equally run by firms and financed through user fees. The remaining deficits are covered by the 'surplus' firms. For this purpose a national motorway fund is created.

• Competition among firms:

The network will not be transferred as a whole but partitioned into single lines. Due to density of the network some spatial competition is guaranteed. Competition in time is guaranteed through the limited validity of the concession.

• Strategic policies remain within the state:

The state restricts himself to strategic objectives: Itineraries, rules and terms of reference for the concession, and coordination between the management firms.

• Reducing fuel taxes:

Fuel and other national taxes are reduced by the user fee revenues. The national taxes then mainly help to finance the grants to the cantons.

2. Simplified cooperation between the federation and the cantons in the field of road construction. This reform proposal has the following cornerstones:

• Simplification of the transfer system:

The present 30 to 40 different grants from the federation to the cantons will we reduced to three. These represent respectively a share of the national taxes, the burden of road construction and maintenance, and financial equalisation.

• Keeping of the cantonal vehicle tax:

The cantons retain their right to levy a vehicle tax. This allows the population to decide on the tax level and therefore on the level of road construction. Furthermore, the vehicle tax is a kind of 'contribution to the user club'.



Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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