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Gotthard tunnel monitored as European traffic mounts

Traffic was expected to be back to usual levels at the Gotthard tunnel on Monday Keystone

Authorities at the Gotthard tunnel have been closely watching cargo traffic at the newly reopened tunnel.

Monday was expected to be the most heavily trafficked day on the road through the Gotthard since the tunnel reopened on December 22 following a deadly fire in October that killed 11 people.

Earlier traffic was limited because of the holidays.

By late Monday morning, authorities in canton Uri said they considered the tunnel’s reopening a success, and that traffic was moving smoothly.

“There is a bit of waiting”, Beat Kaiser of the Swiss Road Transport Association told swissinfo. “But we do not have the traffic jams that will come up when traffic increases.”

The Gotthard tunnel lies on the main north-south European axis.

Truck restriction

While cars are able to travel in both directions through the Gotthard, trucks have been restricted to one direction at a time since the reopening.

Truck drivers have to maintain a distance of 150 metres from the vehicle ahead.

“We don’t want these measures to be permanent,” said Kaiser. “We want better safety standards in the tunnel, and then maybe we’ll come back to the regulations we had before the accident.”

The safety measures were put in place after the fatal fire in the tunnel.

The Gotthard was the third alpine road tunnel in as many years to be transformed into a blazing death trap. In 1999, 39 people died in the Mont Blanc tunnel, linking France and Italy. A year later, 12 people perished in the Tauern tunnel in Austria.

Low traffic at San Bernardino

Meanwhile, cargo traffic at the San Bernardino pass has been low, cantonal police in Graubunden said.

Authorities said it was too early to say whether this was a direct consequence of the reopening of the Gotthard tunnel.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR