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Record-breaking traffic jams on Swiss roads

a section of the A1 motorway is almost filled with cars and trucks moving in both directions
Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Traffic congestion reached a new record on roads in Switzerland last year, according to federal statistics.

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Motorways, highways and connecting roads, known as “third-class national roads”, account for just under 3% of the entire road network, the Federal Roads Office (ASTRA) said on Monday. However, they account for 45% of all vehicle kilometres recorded in Switzerland last year.

Cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles travelled a total of 29.6 billion kilometres on national roads in 2023. This is 1.5% more than the previous year. Passenger cars were responsible for 84% of these vehicle kilometres. Trucks, vans and other delivery vehicles recorded 68% of their mileage on national roads.

Road network hits limit

According to ASTRA, congestion on motorways and other national roads hit a new record level last year. Almost 90% of the 48,807 congestion hours were due to traffic jams.

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The statistics showed that the number of congestion hours increased by 22.4% over 12 months, while the number of vehicle kilometres rose by only 1.5%. This suggests that the road network is at the limit of its capacity, says ASTRA. This jeopardises its stability and durability.

Despite numerous measures taken by the federal authorities to optimise the flow of traffic, Swiss motorways can no longer cope with the additional volume, it says.

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According to ASTRA’s own information, the main measures to reduce traffic flow are speed harmonisation and the temporary conversion of emergency lanes. However, in view of the high volume of traffic, selective road expansions are needed to eliminate the most serious bottlenecks, it says.

A1 is congestion hotspot

According to ASTRA, the A1 between Geneva and St. Margrethen is the longest national road in Switzerland (391 kilometres). Last year, almost a third of all vehicle kilometres travelled on national roads were on this route (32.7%).

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This is significantly higher than its share of the Swiss network (19%). On most other national roads, the proportion of kilometres travelled roughly corresponded to their share of the network length.

Calls for road expansions

The Swiss road hauliers’ association ASTAG expressed its concern about the growth in traffic congestion on Monday. The strain on the road network continues to increase unchecked, it said. The massive increase in congestion hours last year was well above the long-term average of 10%, it added.

The expansion of the road network, which will be decided in a nationwide vote in autumn, must therefore be implemented, the association said in a press release on Monday. Although ASTRA is working hard to combat traffic jams via measures such as the reutilisation of emergency lanes or temporary speed reductions, traffic management alone is not enough, it added.

Adapted from German by DeepL/dkk/sb

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

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