On 12 February 2017, the Swiss electorate will vote on constitutional changes to spend large sums on roads.
The Swiss government says the country has a good transport system, which has been pushed to its limits due to increasing mobility. On many national roads and in the cities, traffic congestion is the norm, it says.
Aim of the proposal
The Federal Council and Parliament have established the Fund for National Roads and Urban Traffic, in order to secure the long-term financing of national roads and to continue financing urban traffic projects. The new fund is unlimited in time and will provide for the gradual expansion of the national road network. As a first step, around CHF 6.5 billion is expected to be spent by 2030 on relieving congestion. This is around CHF 800 per resident. This amendment to the Constitution, which will be put to the vote, will also allow the federal government to continue making contributions to urban projects.
Position of the Federal Council and Parliament
The Federal Council and Parliament recommend voting in favour of the proposal.
Of the main political parties, the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP), the Liberal Party (PLR/FDP) and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP/PDC) are in favour of the referendum. The main party against it is the Socialist Party.
Switzerland’s government argues the investment is necessary to keep the nation moving and improve efficiency. The Socialist Party is concerned about how the new spending will be funded. It says that the fuel tax increase won’t be enough to cover it, and estimates a shortfall of CHF 600 to 700 million a year, a sum which will be funded from the Federal tax pot. The party says this money would deliver more if it were spent on education or public transport.
The Socialist Party was initially in favour of the plan, however its funding was changed. Originally, a fuel tax increase of 15 cents a litre was going to fund two thirds of the spend. Then the fuel tax increase was reduced to 4 cents a litre, leaving two thirds to be funded out of Federal public funds.
WWF Switzerland agrees and says that roads should be funded by those who use them, following the model of polluter-pays, rather than from general public funds.