A government proposal to ease traffic congestion by upgrading Switzerland's main roads has split the electorate down the middle.This content was published on December 19, 2003 - 18:00
According to a poll released on Friday by the GfS research institute, a popular vote on the issue - scheduled for February 8 - is too close to call.
The government plan – a counter-proposal to the so-called Avanti initiative first launched in 2000 and subsequently withdrawn – includes reference to the possible future construction of a second road through the Gotthard Tunnel.
According to the GfS survey, 41 per cent of those polled said they were inclined to support the proposal, while 40 per cent were against. The remainder have yet to make up their minds.
Dealing with traffic
One of the major aims is to cut pollution by reducing traffic in built-up areas and transferring more freight from lorries to trains.
The poll suggests that the most controversial aspect of the proposal is the fact that it does not rule out the possibility of a second road through the Gotthard, Switzerland's main transalpine route.
The survey of just under 1,300 voters found that those in favour of an additional road tunnel also expressed support for the government proposal as a whole, while opponents of any expansion of the Gotthard were more inclined to reject the plans.
The GfS poll did find consensus among nearly all those questioned that something had to be done to relieve traffic congestion.
“But behind this, people are asking themselves questions about how much the plans will cost, what it will really mean for the volume of traffic in general and in particular for private vehicles – and, of course, what the consequences would be for the environment,” said the GfS institute.
Environmental groups warn that the plans will lead to increased noise pollution and a rise in health-related problems.
But the transport ministry argues that the volume of traffic on Swiss roads is set to increase by 15 to 30 per cent by 2020, and that the proposals need to be implemented if gridlocks are to be avoided over the next two decades.
Support from motorists?
GfS researchers found that more than 50 per cent of car owners were in favour of the proposal, while the majority of people relying on public transport were against the government’s plans.
The survey failed to reveal any notable differences between the voting intentions of city dwellers and rural inhabitants.
“It would be wrong to assume that support for the proposal is higher in built-up areas,” commented GfS.
The poll was carried out from December 8 to 16, and was based on interviews conducted with 1,276 people from across the country.
Researchers warn against over-interpretation of the results, arguing that campaigns both for and against the proposal are not likely to take off before the start of next year.
The government proposal aims to improve the country's transportation network by upgrading major roads and easing traffic congestion.
Under the terms of the plans, pollution would be cut by reducing traffic in built-up areas and transferring more freight from lorries to trains.
The proposal will be put to a nationwide vote on February 8.