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Total external costs of transport in Switzerland: comprehensive update study for 2005

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project website
Project Acronym
External Costs Update 2005
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects,
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Starting position and aim

Under the terms of Article 7 of the Swiss distance-related Heavy Vehicle Fee Act (Schwerverkehrsabgabegesetz) of 19 December 1997, the external costs and benefits of transport must be updated regularly. The used methods must reflect the latest research findings. In addition, in the autumn of 2006, the Federal Statistical Office and the Federal Office for Spatial Development produced for the first time an integrated transport account for road and rail transport for the year 2003. This calculation, which includes operating and infrastructure costs as well as external costs, must be updated for the reference year 2005. These are the two factors that have led to this update of the external costs of transport.

In 1998 INFRAS on behalf of ASTRA carried out a study on the costs of congestion in road transport (INFRAS 1998). The congestion costs were estimated between 750 million to 1.2 billion CHF per year. The main section is dispensed to time costs, the next relevant category, the accident cost, energy costs are one order of order of magnitude less than the time cost, and environmental costs are somewhat less important. This congestion costs correspond to an amount of 0.2 to 0.4% of GDP (gross domestic product). Compared to foreign data where values are mentioned up to 2 to 4 % of GDP, these values were significantly lower.


The aim of this study is to update the studies on external costs of transport commissioned by the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) from the year 2000 to the year 2005. The road and rail sections externalities are updated separately. The costs are split according to passenger and freight transport. Road transport is further divided into costs for different vehicle categories. Another focus of this project is on identifying bandwidths (or 95% confidence intervals) in order to take into account the uncertainties associated with individual assumptions within the calculations.


The method used to calculate the external costs of transport is based on the following approach:

  • The calculation basis is the traffic volumes of road and rail transport in 2005.
  • These figures are used to estimate the pollution situation. Depending on the cost area, basic data are required, such as emission functions, wind conditions, population density, and noise barriers, etc.
  • In the next step, the resulting effect/damage is calculated. Depending on the cost area, this may include the number of additional people who fall sick or are injured or killed, or the number of homes exposed to noise. In order to identify these effects, pollution-effect relationships, survival probabilities and other basic data are used.
  • Finally, the damage is quantified in terms of monetary units. To do this, specific cost rates per accident, injured person, illness and lost year of life, and lost rent are calculated, de-pending on the cost area, and applied to the calculated damage figures.


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)


In road transport the external costs in 2005 amount to CHF 8,074 million (95% confidence interval CHF 6,021 to 12,247 million). Of this, 76% or CHF 6,134 million is attributable to pas-senger transport and 24% or CHF 1,941 million to freight transport. In rail transport the ex-ternal costs amount to CHF 455 million (CHF 329 to 708 million). Compared with the previous calculations for the year 2000 the costs for road transport have increased from CHF 6,451 million to 8,074 million. The costs for rail transport have increased from CHF 417 million to 455 million. It should be noted that the cost increase is due in part to methodological adjust-ments, and not only to real changes.

All the results are shown as factor costs. In other words, indirect taxes (such as VAT) are taken out. With the exception of climate costs, the costs are calculated according to the territorial principle: the costs calculated are those incurred in Switzerland through road and rail transport. When calculating climate costs, a global approach is used, which calculates the damage caused by transport in Switzerland. The calculation also takes into account costs that may not arise until after 2005 (e.g. costs of medical treatment, loss of production), but which were caused by transport in 2005.

Other results

The present study aims on one hand at updating congestion costs as a category of the ex­ternal costs of road transport for the year 2000. On the other hand a gap in the Transport Account published in October 2006 (BFS 2006d) can be filled with it. Special emphasis is placed on the differentiation by passenger transport, light and heavy freight transport as well as the time series 1995 - 2000 - 2005. The study was realized by the Federal Office of Spatial Development (ARE) in close cooperation with the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO). In this study, the latest available data sources were explored and interpreted.

The phenomena „congestion" appears when transport demand surpasses capacity at one particular point of the road network. Vehicles start obstructing each other and slowing down: Delays occur. In order to quantify these delays, a congestion threshold (velocity) is determined. One talks about congestion only when the velocity drops below this threshold. In this study velocities below 30 km/h are counted as stop and go traffic and those below 10 km/h as congestion. In order to determine the cost of the extent of the congestion (number of involved vehicles) as well as its length are of interest. Therefore, the calculations aim at vehicle hours (number of vehicles multiplied by congestion time). The study responds pri­marily to the question of the affectedness of inefficiencies in the transport system due to congestion. It only marginally touches the question of cause or causers.

Congestion costs can be differentiated by time loss raised operating costs, accident costs and environmental costs all due to congestion. Congestion costs represent a special form of external costs: they may be external from the point of view of the road users - the delays are forced on them by the other users - but not from the point of view of the total transport system. They are therefore not borne by the general public. That is how they differ from classic externalities.



Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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