Switzerland Road Network

By | December 15, 2022

Switzerland’s motorway network.

Introduction

According to wholevehicles, Switzerland has a total of 71,011 km of roads, of which 1,646 km are motorways (2019). Most roads are managed by municipalities and cantons. Almost all motorways are managed by the federal government, as are some pass routes that have not been developed as motorways. Roads managed by the federal government are subject to tolls. For this, the road user has to buy a toll sticker, with which he can use the federal roads for a year. All other government roads are toll-free and are paid from the road tax that every car owner in Switzerland has to pay to his canton. Finally, there are some private roads, which in some cases require a toll to be paid. A well-known example of this is thetunnel under the Great Saint Bernard Pass.

National Streets

The Nationalstraen network covers 2,255 kilometers, of which 1,887 kilometers have the status of Autobahn or Autostrasse. Of these, 1,544 kilometers have at least 2×2 lanes, as Autostraen can also be single-lane. In addition, a number of Autobahnen are managed by the cantons, which are not included in these figures. 97 kilometers of Swiss motorways have 2×3 lanes, these are mainly located near Zurich, Basel and Bern, Switzerland has no longer 2×3 lanes.

Mountain passes and tunnels

The A9 at Montreux and Lake Geneva (Lac Léman).

In the Swiss road network, besides the motorways, the passes stand out – especially those that connect the different parts of the country. Given Switzerland’s central location in Western Europe, these passes often form important north-south connections within Europe. Prominent north-south connections are the Saint Bernhard Pass, the Simplon Pass, the Gotthard Pass and the San Bernardino Pass. The Gotthard route has been developed almost entirely as a motorway; only the tunnel under the passitself (one of the longest in the world at 16 kilometers) is a two-lane road. This makes the Gotthard route the busiest north-south route in Switzerland, which regularly results in traffic jams.

The San Bernardino Pass is also tunneled under. The tunnel is reached via a well-developed (largely four-lane) road that further connects to the motorway network. This makes the San Bernardino route a good alternative to the Gotthard route, especially on busy days. The other prominent pass routes mentioned, as well as the less prominent pass routes, do not have a good connection to the highway network. As a result, they are less popular with international transit traffic.

Traffic jam

On busy days there are many traffic jams on the north-south routes of Switzerland. Road users often have to wait hours for the two-lane Gotthard tunnel, in particular. Freight traffic is subject to extra restrictions on those busy days. For safety reasons, freight traffic is only allowed to travel in one direction through the tunnel, so one moment north-south freight traffic is allowed through the tunnel and south-north freight traffic has to wait, the other moment it’s the other way around. Waiting freight traffic is accommodated in special parking spaces well in front of the tunnel (Blockabfertigung). This system is also used on busy days at the San Bernardino tunnel.

In view of the overload of the transalpine routes, there is a strong call to broaden and further expand these routes. For example, a doubling of the Gotthard tunnel has been proposed. It is sensitive in Switzerland (as in Austria) to have to expand the road network for foreign transit traffic – at least that is how it is felt – despite the fact that the necessary Swiss freight traffic also goes to the other side of the Alps. In the 1990s, counter-movements from the Alpine regions and the environmental movement managed to win the people over in a referendum for the so -called Alpen-Initiative, a private member’s law which basically means that the transalpine motorwayswill not be expanded further and high taxes will be levied on transalpine freight traffic. Train tunnels were built with the proceeds. Trucks can already avoid the high road tax by loading their trucks on the train in places like Freiburg im Breisgau and Milano to be transported through the Alps.

History

The Swiss road network was first numbered in 1912, by the Société suisse pour le numérotage des routes (SSNR). Some contemporary road numbers such as A1 and A2 are based on this road numbering from 1912. At the beginning of the 20th century there was great resistance to the car in Graubünden, to the point that the canton banned the driving of cars on 17 August 1900. As a result, no road numbering was introduced in Graubünden in 1912. In 1925, the ban on driving in Graubünden was lifted.

In the early 20th century there were only two roads across the Alps in Switzerland, the Gotthardpass and the Simplonpass. Most of the other mountain passes were only built in the 1920s and until the 1960s, several Alpine passes were still unpaved. Switzerland’s first Autobahn was a section of the A2 between Lucerne and Horw that was opened in 1955. This part was only 4 kilometers long and at the time the term ‘Autobahn’ was not yet common in Switzerland. In 1962 a part of the A1 opened at Bern. From the mid-1960s, several sections of the motorway were gradually taken into use.

In the densely populated Mittelland, the roads have changed relatively little since they were paved. Circular roads have been constructed here and there, but the roads usually run from village to village through the center. The motorways were the only routes that were built on a large scale on a new route. The Swiss motorway network was largely built in the 1970s and 1980s. The San Bernardino Tunnel opened in 1967. It was the longest tunnel in the world when it opened. In 1980, the Gotthard Tunnel opened, which was the longest road tunnel in the world for 20 years thereafter.

During the 1980s, most of the missing links of the highway network were opened up. In 1985 Zurich’s northern bypass, including the Gubrist Tunnel, opened. The A2 from Basel to Chiasso was completed in 1986 when the last section opened in Ticino. In 1996 the missing section of the A3 between Basel and Zurich opened, in 2001 the last section of the A1 between Lausanne and Bern opened and in 2009 the western bypass of Zurich opened. In 2017, the last section of the A16 in the Jura opened. The Swiss motorway network is largely seen as complete, with the exception of the A9, there are no plans for new long-distance motorways, although upgrades, rerouting and bypasses are still envisaged, often largely tunnelled.

Toll

In Switzerland, the use of the Nationalstrassennetz has been subject to tolls since 1985. The Autobahnen and Autostraen fall under the Nationalstrassentz. An Autobahn vignette is mandatory for passenger cars up to 3.5 tons. This costs 40 CHF. Lorries have to pay tolls on all roads via the Schwerverkehrsabgabe (LSVA). This is the most expensive truck toll in the world. The purpose of the truck toll is not to finance traffic infrastructure, but to discount freight transport off the road.

Unlike Austria, no separate toll is levied on parts of the motorway network. The other toll roads are outside the main road network. The most famous of these is the Tunnel du Grand Saint-Bernard from Martigny to Aosta. This toll tunnel can be avoided in summer by driving via the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard.

It has been proposed to introduce a congestion charge on both road and public transport. This is called ‘Mobility Pricing’. The aim is to keep traffic out of the peak period. It is not provided as a method of financing infrastructure, the levy is guiding.

Maximum allowable weights

Switzerland is one of the last countries where the maximum permissible weight of trucks has been increased to what was usual elsewhere in Europe. In 2001 the maximum weight was increased from 28 to 34 tons and in 2005 from 34 to 40 tons. The effect on the road surface is nil because the axle load has even fallen slightly from 12.0 to 11.5 tons, but on structures it can lead to a reduced lifespan, especially on bridges built before 1970. [10 ]

Road management

The national road authority in Switzerland is called ASTRA (Bundesamt für Strassen) in German, OFROU (Office fédéral des routes) in French and USTRA (Ufficio Federal delle strade) in Italian. In addition, the cantons and municipalities are also road authorities. These regional and local road authorities are often called the Tiefbauamt. The Raststätten (restaurants) along the motorway are owned by the cantons.

Statistics

In 2021 ASTRA managed 2,255 kilometers of Nationalsstrassen, 282 connections, 52 interchanges, 6 freight traffic control centers, 122 service areas, 320 traffic counting points, 4400 bridges and viaducts, 280 tunnels and 41 ecoducts.

Mountain passes

Switzerland is known for its mountain passes. Several mountain passes are more than 2,000 meters high. The main mountain passes also have a road tunnel running underneath them. Most are mainly of interest for tourism and few high mountain passes are kept open in winter. In particular, the Simplonpass and the Gotthardpass are well developed.

Mountain Passes in Switzerland
Ächerlipass • Albulapass • Berninapass • Brünigpass • Col de la Croix • Flüelapass • Col de la Forclaz • Furkapass • Glaubenbergpass • Glaubenbielenpass • Gotthardpass • Grimselpass • Col du Grand Saint-Bernard • Gurnigelpass • Ibergeregg • Jaunpass • Julierpasszer • Klausenpass • at Livigno •Lukmanier pass • Maloja pass • Passo del Monte Ceneri • Pas de Morgins • Col des Mosses • Nufenen pass • Oberalp pass • Ofen pass • Col du Pillon • Pragel pass • Saanenmöser • San Bernardino pass • Col du Sanetsch • Sattelegg • Schallenberg pass • Schwarzenbühlpass • Splügen pass • Simplon pass • Umbrail Pass • Wolfgang Pass

Nodes

Junctions in Switzerland
Altdorf • Augst • Bellinzona-Nord • Bern-Wankdorf • Bern-Weyermannshaus • Birrfeld • Blegi • Bözingenfeld • Brig -Glis • Brüggmoos • Brüttisellen • Ecublens • Essert -Pittet • Grand-St-Bernard • Hagnau • Härkingen • Hinwil • La Veyre • Le Vengeron • Limmattal • Lopper •Lugano-Nord • Luterbach • Meggenhus • Mendrisio • Mutzentäli • Neuchâtel-Vauseyon • Perly • Reichenburg • Rheinfelden • Rotsee • Rütihof • Sarganserland • Schönbühl • Villars -Ste-Croix • Wiese • Wiggertal • Winterthur-Nord • Winterthur -Ost • Zurich-Nord • Zurich-East • Zurich-Süd• Zurich West

Road Classification

There are various types of roads in Switzerland. The designation of one road may differ and the terms overlap.

Nationalstrasse

The highest class is the Nationalstrasse. Not all highways are Nationalstrassen and not all Nationalstrassen are highways. The Nationalstraen usually include Autobahnen and Autostraen, which overlap. For example, Nationalstrasse 2 is the A2 from Basel to Chiasso. Because the Gotthard tunnel has no motorway status, the road there is called Autostrasse 2. The same applies to almost all other Autobahnen. The non-cantonal Autobahnen always coincide with a Nationalstrasse.

Classification

There are three types of Nationalstrassen;

  • 1st class. Motor vehicles only, usually grade separated, separated lanes. These are generally designed as Autobahn.
  • 2nd class. Motor vehicles only, usually grade separated, not always separated lanes. Mostly Autostrae.
  • 3rd class. Open to all traffic, often at-grade intersections. Hauptstrassen.

Autostrae

The Autostraen in Switzerland are usually grade separated, but have no lane separation and often only have one lane in each direction. The maximum speed is 100 km/h. Well-known Autostraes are the A13 around the San Bernardino tunnel and the A2 in the Gotthard tunnel. The signage is similar to highways with green signs.

Hauptstrasse

Hauptstraen are main roads in the management of the cantons. The signage here is with blue signs. The Hauptstraen are numbered, but only the most important numbers are actually indicated.

Nebenstrasse

Nebenstraen are the lowest category of roads, the only requirement being that they be paved. These roads are not signposted or are marked with white signposts. A large number of Nebenstrassen are prohibited for motorized traffic because there are quite a few car-free villages and rural areas in Switzerland. Only traffic with an exemption may drive there. Some Nebenstrassen are too narrow for two cars to pass, so you have to swerve.

Feldstrassen and Waldstrassen

These roads are generally unpaved and only intended for agricultural or forestry traffic. There may also be trucks or other large vehicles that must be there for agriculture or forestry purposes, but they have no traffic function.

European roads

European roads in Switzerland
E23 • E25 • E27 • E35 • E41 • E43 • E54 • E60 • E62

Road numbering

The numbered roads in Switzerland can be divided into A-roads (motorways and main roads managed by the federal government) and H-roads. A hexagonal shield is used for A-roads, similar to the German Autobahn shield, but with a burgundy background. For H-roads, a standing rectangular shield with a blue background is used. In both cases, only the number is stated in the shield, no prefix.

The road numbering of both systems follows a similar pattern. A-roads and H-roads follow similar routes and often even run directly parallel to each other. The routes with the low numbers are the more important routes that run throughout Switzerland. The A1 and H1 run from Geneva to St. Gallen, the A2 and H2 run from Basel to Chiasso, and the A3 and H3 run from Basel to the southeast. As road numbers get higher, they have less national importance. In those cases, there are generally no longer any parallel motorways and non-motorways. There is simply too little importance to build a motorway. Only in the densely populated area of ​​Zurich are some highways with higher numbers.

Finally, the A1 has a few short branches (Zubringers), where an addition is added after the number A1, for example the A1a (near Geneva) and the A1L (near Zurich).

Signage

Signage in Switzerland is done in blue, green or white. A green background color is used for federally managed roads, which therefore also require a road vignette. A blue background color is used for all other roads, and also for references from motorways to service areas. On municipal roads, white signs are used with black letters. References to city districts and objects also appear in that color scheme. The font used is Frutiger.

In the quadrilingual Switzerland, the signage is carried out in the language used locally. In Raeto-Romanesque areas, signposting is standard in German. When referring to place names, the endonym is used; to that extent, therefore, a derogation from the rule that signposts are in the local language.

On motorways the exits are numbered. This happens with consecutive numbers; nodes are integrated in the numbering. Road numbers are only mentioned to a limited extent. In the directional signage on the motorways, they only return at junctions. In addition, the road numbers are repeated on distance signs. E-roads are treated the same. The road numbers under H20 are indicated almost everywhere on the secondary road network; higher road numbers, however, only to a limited extent.

Maximum speed

The maximum speed in Switzerland is 50 km/h in built-up areas and 80 km/h outside of it. 100 km/h applies on Autostrassen and 120 km/h on Autobahnen. The current maximum speed of 120 km/h has been in use since January 1, 1984. Before that, different maximum speeds applied. Before 1966 there was no speed limit on Autobahnen in Switzerland. In that year a Richtgeschwindigkeitwhich was converted to a maximum speed of 100 km/h on 17 November 1973 due to the oil crisis. This maximum speed was not enforceable and was increased to 130 km/h on 14 March 1974. This maximum speed has existed for 10 years and was then lowered to 120 km/h. For a long time, Switzerland had a maximum speed limit of 60 km/h in built-up areas, namely between 1959 and 1984. This maximum speed was common in Eastern Europe, France and Belgium for a long time.

Introduction Inside the bowl Outside the bowl Motorways Autobahns
1904 10 km/h 30 km/h
1914 18 km/h 40 km/h
1932 Lifting limits
June 1, 1959 60 km/h unlimited
(Richtgeschwindigkeit) from summer 1966
January 1, 1973 100 km/h unlimited (Richtgeschwindigkeit)
Nov 17, 1973 100 km/h
March 14, 1974 130 km/h
January 1, 1977 100 km/h
January 1, 1984 50 km/h 80 km/h 80 km/hde facto
100 km/h
120 km/h
Dec 20, 1989 de jure
100 km/h

Modal split

Passenger transport

The modal split in Switzerland in 2011 (passenger kilometers).

Modality Part
Car 79.2%
Train 17.2%
Local public transport 3.6%

freight forwarding

Modal split tonne-kilometres in 2010.

Modality Part
Truck 59.8%
Track 40.2%

Road safety

Year Road fatalities
2010 327
2011 320
2012 339
2013 269
2014 243
2015 253
2016 216
2017 230
2018 233
2019 187
2020 227
2021 200

In 2014, 243 road deaths occurred in Switzerland, a decrease of 10 percent compared to 2013 and 24 percent compared to the 2009-2013 average. In 2015, 31 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, one of the lowest in Europe. Of the 243 road deaths in 2014, 26 occurred on Autobahnen and Autostraen. The number of road deaths has not decreased much further after 2015.

Switzerland Road Network