Since 1985, a sticker or vignette has been required to drive on main and secondary routes in Switzerland. This could be about to change.
Currently, drivers entering Switzerland from outside must buy a vignette before using primary and secondary Swiss roads. There is no short stay ticket. Drivers must buy an annual vignette.
The Swiss vignette currently costs CHF 40 and lasts one calendar year, although if well timed it can work for 14 months. A 2016 vignette is valid until 31 January 2017. The extra month is a grace period given to ensure drivers are given time to get a new one. Those buying a ticket from 1 December will be given an annual ticket for the following year, so if it is bought on 1 December of one year, it is good until 31 January of the year after the following year.
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While many on a short stay may feel short changed by being forced to pay for a motorway pass they will barely use, it often offers better value than driving in neighbouring France or Italy. Spending two and a half hours on a French motorway travelling from Geneva to Lyon and back, costs around CHF 34. Paying CHF 40 in Switzerland offers unlimited motorway use for as long as 14 months.
Of course it all depends how short your stay is. One of worst deals is when you find yourself at Bardonnex en route for Geneva airport in a French-plated car rented on the French side of Geneva airport with no Swiss vignette. The result is a 40 franc fee for a ten minute drive on the stretch of Swiss motorway to the airport.
Last Friday, Switzerland’s Federal Council said it would like to see the current system of stickers replaced with an electronic system. The price and duration would stay the same. The idea of offering a 7 or 10 day vignette however was not part of the plan. Offering a short term option would require an increase in the price of the annual vignette, something rejected in a referendum in 2013, which proposed raising the price to CHF 100. A short term vignette offered at CHF 20 would bring the price of an annual one to CHF 56.
The electronic system would require drivers to register their car licence plate numbers when purchasing their vignette online. Fixed and mobile scanners would scan licence plates and search for a match in a national database of those who had paid. Those driving a car with a licence plate not registered in the database would be sent a fine.
Those with foreign plates would be added to a list and stopped when leaving Switzerland or when next entering.
The system would cost between CHF 50 and CHF 75 million. At an annual running cost of CHF 25 to CHF 35 million it would cost less than the current annual running costs of CHF 48 million.
Portugal has an electronic scanning system, which is used to charge based on road usage. Car licence plate numbers are entered at the time of payment and charges are either automatically taken from a credit card or deducted from a balance on a prepaid card, avoiding the cost and hassle of toll booths.
According to the report behind the Federal Council’s decision, it is too soon to say whether the system would be used to charge drivers based on usage rather than annually.
Swiss roads requiring a motorway sticker are shown here.