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Bern plans lower speeds to ease traffic jams

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Bern plans lower speeds to ease traffic jams
Photo: Astra
10:31 CET+01:00
In a move that may seem to be counter-intuitive, the Swiss federal government is planning to deal with growing traffic jams on motorways by reducing the speed limit on hundreds of kilometres of roadway.

Transport Minister Doris Leuthard has approved the addition of 280 kilometres of roadway where “switchable” speed limit signs will be installed, the SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.

The limits will be reduced to 80 kilometres an hour from the regular 120 kilometres an hour during peak traffic periods.

At a lower speed vehicles drive closer together increasing the capacity of the motorways by more than 700 cars per hour, Guido Bielmann, an official from the federal highways office (Astra) said.

“It’s not about bullying but stretching the capacity of motorways to the full,” Bielmann told SonntagsZeitung.

Traffic jams have intensified on motorways in areas such as metropolitan Zurich and the Geneva-Lausanne region. 

The switchable speed signs are already used on 170 kilometres of motorways including sections of the A1 motorway, where reduced speeds are applied during rush hours.

Astra says the reduced speeds are effective.

“The traffic flows smoothly and jams up less,” Bielmann said.

But the solution hasn’t been welcomed by motorist groups.

“If motorists have to drive 20 percent longer because of the speed reductions they also increase their costs by 20 percent,” said Niklaus Zürcher, director general of the Automobile Club of Switzerland.

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