The cantonal government of Friborg’s decision to declare free public transport illegal is being contested in a Swiss federal court. A Swiss Supreme Court decision in line with the Friborg government could affect plans for free public transport in other Swiss cantons.

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The Swiss constitution seems to rule out the possibility of free public transport. Section 81(2) provides that users of public transport bear an appropriate portion of the costs. However, the text has caused controversy and confusion, with some politicians calling for it to be changed.

Moreover, if Switzerland’s supreme court, the Federal Court, were to follow the literal wording of the constitution and ban free public transport, the decision could have ramifications beyond the canton of Friborg. Case law set at the federal level applies nationwide.

The cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud and Bern are currently planning to make certain public transport free. Federal precedents against free shipping could close the door on similar plans in those states.

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