Swiss canton to create fake traffic jams to ward off Easter travellers

Swiss canton to create fake traffic jams to ward off Easter travellers

With the prospect of heavy traffic jams looming large over Switzerland's top spring destinations, one canton has decided to take drastic action to try and ease congestion for locals. Canton Graubünden has confirmed that it would be creating fake traffic jams on local roads during Easter, to force tourists to stick to the motorways.

Swiss tourist destinations prepare for Easter traffic

Writing in a statement, the Federal Roads Office (Astra) noted that major tourist areas of Switzerland, especially ski resorts, other locations in the mountains and Ticino, will be beset with high levels of road traffic during the Easter period. They warned that heavy south and eastbound traffic should be expected on the main arteries through the Alps at the beginning of the holiday, while severe northbound traffic should be the norm soon after.

One of the effects of this high level of congestion is what Astra described as “undesirable alternative traffic” - where tourists, often ordered by their real-time satellite navigation systems, come off the motorway and use smaller local roads to try and skip the queue. They noted that this is a major inconvenience for locals trying to get to work or the shops, and can lead to whole regions getting clogged up with cars.

This phenomenon has forced Swiss cantons into action, with Uri announcing new measures to try and stop traffic spilling onto local roads from the Gotthard. Canton Nidwalden has also confirmed that it will be using traffic lights on the A2 motorway and closing the southbound exits for Beckenried and Buochs if congestion proves too severe.

Graubünden planning artificial traffic jams during Easter

Now, according to a report from SRF’s Regional Journal programme, Canton Graubünden is planning to go one step further, creating fake traffic jams to encourage tourist drivers to remain on the motorway. Speaking on the programme, cantonal engineer Reto Knuchel confirmed that several “barriers” will be placed on the M13. The regional road follows alongside the A13 motorway, one of the main axes through the Alps that runs through the San Bernardino Pass.

Knuchel said these barriers will consist of traffic cadets, who will deliberately hold up sets of vehicles ahead of towns and villages on the M13. He said this would create an “artificial backlog” that would fool both drivers and satellite navigation systems into thinking that taking the congested San Bernardino highway would still be the best option.

Interestingly, the idea does have precedence in Graubünden itself. In May 2023, the town of Domat / Ems, which lies on the M13 road, deployed two traffic wardens to deliberately hold traffic up as they entered the town. While the idea did not go down well with some local drivers - who had to sit in a fake traffic jam in order to prevent a real one - the idea successfully fooled sat-navs worldwide.

When is best to travel in Switzerland during Easter?

If you are planning to travel during the Easter weekend in 2024, Astra traffic expert Thomas Rohrbach advised motorists to hit the road on March 27 and to avoid Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday and especially Good Friday. He noted that Good Friday remains the day most likely to see congestion, noting that a 22 kilometre-jam was recorded north of the Gotthard just two years ago - the record remains 25 kilometres, which was reported north of the tunnel on Good Friday in 1998.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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