New referendum hopes to ban all motorway expansions in Switzerland

New referendum hopes to ban all motorway expansions in Switzerland

The Swiss Traffic Club (VCS) has launched a new popular referendum which would ban the expansion of motorways in Switzerland. The government is due to spend 34 billion francs on expanding the road network between now and 2040.

Government set to spend 34 billion Swiss francs on new roads

Currently, the Federal Council has planned to extend 11 sections of motorway over the next 18 years, with 48 more schemes set to be announced between now and 2040. Of particular note are plans to expand the A1 near Bern from three lanes to four, construction of a new road tunnel under the River Rhine near Basel and two new motorway extensions in the Glatt valley and Oberland of Canton Zurich.

If all 59 projects in the pipeline are approved, the parliament and Swiss cantons will spend 34,2 billion francs on new roads over the next 30 years. The Federal Council argued that the investment is necessary, as projections say that with current capacity, there will be around 450 kilometres of traffic jams on the roads every day by 2040, mostly around Swiss cities.

Creating larger roads just leads to more traffic, critics argue

However, these new plans are not without their critics, with National Councillor and VCS vice president Bruno Storni noting, "If we are serious about climate protection, we cannot increase the capacity of the roads at the same time." The VCS condemned the investment in roads, particularly as Switzerland is attempting to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Many VCS members have argued that increasing road capacity never reduces traffic jams for long.

At a closed meeting, the VCS announced that it would be launching a referendum against government plans by creating a moratorium on road expansion projects for the next 10 years. "An increase in capacity automatically leads to more traffic, which produces new traffic jams,” Storni said, arguing that investment in public transport, cycling and remote working should be used to ease traffic instead.

New referendum faces stiff opposition in parliament

The response to the new referendum was lukewarm in parliament. "I don't believe in an expansion moratorium at all," said National Councillor Martin Candinas. To him, not expanding the road network was the “wrong approach” as “chaos and traffic jams would be the result." Leader of FDP. The Liberals, Thierry Burkhart, argued that a moratorium would cause “new traffic in villages and towns."

The VCS committee is now drafting the new referendum, which will be announced in the coming months. While it does not enjoy strong parliamentary support, there is still doubt as to how Swiss citizens will vote on the initiative.

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...

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