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Swiss stay at home for Pope’s funeral

Thousands of people have been pouring into Rome Keystone

Transport companies have reported only small demand for extra trips to Rome in time for the Pope’s funeral on Friday.

Only the Swiss Federal Railways is intending to increase capacity. Travel companies say there is a lack of accommodation in the Italian capital.

More than two million people are expected in Rome ahead of the funeral of Pope John Paul II, who died last Saturday at the age of 84. His body is currently lying in state in St Peter’s Basilica.

The Federal Railways said on Tuesday that it would be running an extra train with 1,000 seats on Thursday evening from Zurich. It should arrive in Rome at seven on Friday morning and will return the same evening.

But other transport companies say there is little interest, including the national carrier Swiss.

“We have witnessed no great rush for Rome flights,” said Swiss spokesman Dominik Werner. The company runs eight flights a day to Rome from Geneva, Basel and Zurich airports.

Budget airline Helvetic, which operates a daily flight to Rome, also said that it would not run extra flights, although it was leaving room for manoeuvre should demand arise.

The coach company Eurobus had expected an increase in business but has had to cancel a three-and-a-half-day trip to the Vatican, with 30 places, since bookings were slow.

No rooms

The large tour operators, such as Kuoni, Hotelplan and TUI Suisse, also said that interest had been very low.

TUI Suisse spokesman Roland Schmid said the difficulty of finding a room in Rome may have scared away many potential customers. Most accommodation is said to be fully booked, with work underway to make makeshift shelters in sports grounds ahead of the funeral.

Tens of thousands of people have already arrived in Rome to see the Pope’s body. Travel agents in Poland, the Pope’s home country, say they can barely keep up with demand.

Around 200 dignitaries from around the world are expected to attend the funeral, including President Bush and United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

Switzerland will be represented by president Samuel Schmid. Four Catholic bishops, including the head of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Amédée Grab, will also be attending.

swissinfo with agencies

More than two million people and around 200 world dignitaries are expected in Rome for the Pope’s funeral on Friday.
Rome is erecting a defence shield that will include a no-fly zone and anti-aircraft missiles.
The city is offering tents and campgrounds for thousands of pilgrims who don’t have lodgings.
Thousands of police reinforcements are arriving from across Italy.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR