A large majority of voters have approved a new multibillion franc fund to maintain Switzerland’s road network. The government had warned of a severe cash shortfall if it were rejected at the ballot box.
The number of vehicles on Swiss roads has increased by more than half since 1990. The total number of vehicles registered in Switzerland in 2015 was 5.9 million, in a country with a population of 8.4 million.
Since 1990, the number of motor vehicles on Swiss roads has increased by about 55%, according to the Federal Roads Office. Cars account for three-quarters of all motor vehicles.
This has put a strain on the country’s dense road network and prompted the government, with parliament’s backing, to propose the creation of a new CHF3 billion ($3 billion) annual fund to meet the growing operational and maintenance costs.
Sixty-two per cent of voters approved the government plan. The opponents, the Green Party and environmental groups, had argued during the campaign that the additional money set aside for roads would come at the expense of public transport.
Transport Minister Doris Leuthard interpreted the outcome as recognition by voters that the road network and railways co-exist, and both need investments in order to meet the increasing mobility of the population.
The head of the Greens, Regula Rytz, complained that now too much money would be pumped into road works. This will soon be unnecessary, she argued, since new automation technology will allow cars, for example, to drive more closely together.
Currently, income from an oil tax and a surcharge on fossil fuels, as well as the sale of motorway permits, finances road works. But the authorities consider this now insufficient, partly because neither the tax nor the surcharge have been increased for decades.
The government argues that if nothing is done to change the situation, there will be an annual shortfall of approximately CHF1.3 billion by 2019 at the latest.
The new fund for financing of motorway and agglomeration traffic will be fed with money from a variety of sources: the existing surcharge on fossil fuel and sale of motorway stickers, 10% of the oil tax, revenue from a vehicle import tax and a levy on electric vehicles - the latter to be introduced from 2020.
The government says this will add up to about CHF3 billion annually – an increase of CHF650 million.
Since the plan requires a change to the constitution, it must be approved by voters.
CHF3 billion annually will go into the new fund. The money will come from the following sources:
Fossil fuel surcharge: CHF1.9 billion
Vehicle import tax: CHF400 million
Income from motorway permits: CHF320 million
10% from the oil tax: CHF250 million
Levy on electric vehicles (from 2020): CHF90 million
Contributions from cantons: CHF60 million
Final results vote Feb 12:
Corporate tax reform: 40.9% yes 59.1% no
Facilitated citizenship: 60.4% yes 39.6% no
Road traffic fund: 62% yes 38% no