Gridlock: Number of traffic jams in Switzerland reaches record high

Gridlock: Number of traffic jams in Switzerland reaches record high

Drivers in Switzerland have never had to face as many traffic jams as they do today, the latest data from the Federal Roads Office (Astra) has revealed. Over 45.000 hours of gridlock were reported across Swiss roads and motorways in 2023, the highest number reported since records began.

Record number of traffic jams reported on Swiss roads

According to the data, there were a total of 48.807 hours of traffic jams on roads in Switzerland in 2023, a 22,4 percent increase compared to 2022 and the highest rate seen in the alpine nation since records began. Despite only making up 3 percent of the overall road network, the country’s motorways were the most chock-a-block, accounting for 45 percent of all jams.

Astra noted that almost 90 percent of traffic jams in Switzerland (42.318 hours) were caused by too many cars and motorcycles on the road. Capacity issues were followed by road accidents (3.521 hours) and construction and maintenance work (2.181 hours) as the most common reasons for traffic.

What are the biggest traffic jam hot spots in Switzerland?

The list of the most congested routes makes for familiar reading for motorists in Switzerland: the most jams occur on the motorways around Basel, Lucerne, Lugano and especially Zurich, the Gotthard Road Tunnel and Härkingen-Luterbach - the stretch where the A1, 2 and 5 meet. In all, the A1 between Geneva and St. Margrethen - the spine of the motorway network - was the most commonly used road in Switzerland in 2023.

While the number of traffic jams skyrocketed in 2023, the number of kilometres travelled by cars, trucks and motorcycles in Switzerland only rose by 1,5 percent compared to 2022, to an estimated total of 29,6 billion kilometres. Astra argued that “the significantly greater increase in hours of traffic jams compared to vehicle kilometres shows the limits of the national road network.”

“Despite the numerous measures taken by Astra to optimise traffic flow, the national roads can no longer absorb the additional traffic volume,” the report noted, adding that "to eliminate the most serious bottlenecks, selective expansions are necessary.” Both they and the Swiss Commercial Vehicle Association called on the government to expand the motorways, using a plan that will be voted on in the autumn.

Opponents warn against Swiss motorway expansion

However, while some have called for expansion, others have questioned whether adding lanes to motorways is the right way forward. Speaking to 20 Minuten back in January, National Councillor Min Li Marti (SP) said that “the planned expansion is completely at odds with climate goals.” With Switzerland having accepted the climate protection law in 2023, she argued that the country cannot achieve the referendum’s goals without reducing the number of cars.

Li Marti added that rather than ease traffic jams, motorway expansions typically make traffic worse in the long term as they cater to latent demand that had not taken the motorway before - the larger yet still gridlocked motorways of Texas and California are good examples of how expanding motorways can actually make jams more likely. National Councillor David Roth (SP) agreed, noting that "additional lanes do not solve the problem any more than adding an extra room to a hoarder's home. It will soon be full too."

Thumb image credit: Stefano Ember /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

Read more



Leave a comment