Sound transport infrastructure and public transport services are important prerequisites for an attractive living and business environment. This is why the public sector supports public transport and rail freight transport: the federal government, cantons and communes pay around half of these transport costs.

The federal government spends over CHF 5 billion annually on public transport and rail freight. The mandate of the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) is to steer the financing and to make it as efficient as possible. The FOT's area of competence includes the following items:

  • Expenditure on expansion projects and on operating and maintaining railway infrastructure is financed through the Rail Infrastructure Fund (around CHF 4.5 billion per year),
  • To ensure the basic provision of public transport services throughout Switzerland, the federal government and the cantons commission transport companies in the regional passenger transport system to provide the required train, bus and, in some cases, cable car or boat services (the federal government's share of the cost is around one billion francs per year),
  • The federal government also promotes rail freight transport, on the one hand with operating subsidies for combined transport through the Alps, and on the other hand by co-financing freight transport facilities such as terminals and sidings (a total of around CHF 100 to 200 million per year).
  • The federal government also makes contributions towards car transport by rail, primarily by providing regular investment credits. These subsides and contributions are largely financed by revenues from road transport.
  • In addition to national roads, the Federal Roads Office's National Highways and Urban Transport Fund (NAF) also co-finances the expansion of public transport in the programmes for urban areas. Funding is primarily aimed at bus and tram projects.

Regional passenger transport that does not serve to connect smaller communities (places with fewer than 100 inhabitants) and local transport (e.g. inner-city transport) can be financed by the cantons alone or together with the communes. The federal government does not participate in funding this. National passenger transport services, i.e. long-distance transport, is not funded by the federal government either. All long-distance transport must be run on a commercial basis.

Responsibilities for correct use of subsidies and oversight by the FOT

The transport companies are responsible for ensuring that subsidies are used properly and lawfully. They are supported in this by auditing companies:

  • Transport companies whose subsidies and loans for regional passenger transport and for operating and maintaining railway infrastructure exceed one million francs per year must undergo a special audit annually in accordance with the corresponding FOT guideline.
  • Transport companies that receive more than ten million francs per year in subsidies for regional passenger transport and infrastructure must have their annual accounts audited by an auditing company.
  • Transport companies should use a recognised accounting standard designated by the FOT.
  • Transport companies must submit a declaration to confirm that they comply with the principles of subsidy law.

The FOT oversees the sectors that are (co-)financed by the federal government. This ensures that the payment of subsidies is property controlled and their correct use is verified. In particular, the financial plans (bids) and the annual accounts of the transport companies are examined.


The FOT audit section and the federal and cantonal financial audit offices also carry out in-depth, random and risk-oriented audits of the transport companies.

Last modification 28.09.2021

Top of page