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Road Pricing: concepts and acceptability

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Project Acronym
D11 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
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

'PRIMA' (acronym for Pricing Measures Acceptance) is an EU project researching the acceptance of road pricing. It is supported in Switzerland amongst others by the Federal Office for Education and Science and the National Research Programme 41. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

The objective of this international project is to investigate acceptance or rejection of road pricing in urban regions and to use the results for the preparation of policy recommendations and guidelines with regard to the introduction of road pricing in conurbations.

Urban regions already practising or planning some form of road pricing, or committing themselves to other efficient means to traffic guidance, are used as case studies. Cities were selected to enable comparisons to be made between different types and phases of road pricing implementation.

The PRIMA research work addressing the Swiss situation explicitly includes the national dimension as well: motorway charges, kilometre fees.


Besides a theoretical analysis of issues regarding the acceptance of road pricing, the research project also involves an empirical investigation of urban regions, as well as an evaluation of technical/operational and economic and social aspects and, finally, suggestions for possible solutions with particular emphasis on Bern and Zurich.


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


Acceptance of Road Pricing?


Road Pricing is discussed as a means of financing transport projects or as a regulating and incentive instrument for the prevention of congestion, environmental damage and capacity growth.


The study carried out an in-depth investigation of the technical and economic aspects of possible concepts and their acceptability, in association with an EU project.

Although many things are technically feasible, highly differentiated systems only make sense if there is international compatibility (interoperability), and consequently they cannot be realised in the short term.

Representative surveys in Berne, Zurich and Geneva, as well as interviews with key actors and organisations, show that road pricing is still viewed with great scepticism. It meets with more acceptance as a means of financing better or new roads, or public transport.


In the short term, the authors would favour no more than simple regional fees in urban areas, if any. Road pricing for new routes (such as Zurich Lake Tunnel) would be possible, ideally in combination with private contractors. Apart from concepts for Zurich and Berne, the study also outlines steps leading to distance-related road pricing in Switzerland in the more distant future.

Policy implications

Over the next years, the issue of new charges for private road transport is likely to gain political importance. The CO² problem continues without abate. Congestion on parts of the motorway network and in conurbations is likely to increase even further.


At the same time, road maintenance is likely to demand more and more resources and, the more the network of highways develops, so the more expensive individual expansion projects will become because of implementation problems.

According to initial experience in Berne and Geneva (Schanzentunnel and Traversée de la Rade), the initiative for such road pricing should continue to come from the cities.


In many cases, however, suburban communities carrying a major burden of high traffic volumes take the initiative in considering access pricing to areas with a lot of traffic generation.


It is also conceivable that solutions with separate, and also private financing will be sought.


The latter approach could also be considered for eliminating bottlenecks on motorways. The initiative for such road pricing on individual nation road sections could come from interest groups, as well as from the Federal Parliament or from the Government. Very severe bottleneck situations could also attract private investors and (internationally operating) road toll operators onto the scene.


With regard to the construction of new road sections, the initiators themselves would be well advised to clarify first the effectiveness and acceptance of the project as such.


Also important are the issues of effective finance and, if road pricing takes place, an acceptable utilisation of revenue and associated measures.


Based on a practical project, a technical and operational feasibility study, and proof of subsequent compliance with regulations from public authorities, an application for a permit to collect road charges should be submitted to the Federal Parliament, in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

Provided such a permit is granted, the subsequent competence for decisions and measures regarding area access charges lies with the relevant communities and with the canton if its roads are affected.

In the case of user charges on existing or new road sections, and depending on the objective, general consent of all levels of public authority would be required with regard to the project itself, as


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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