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Train chief confident Swiss funicular tunnels are safe

Saas-Fee's Mittelallalin glacier Keystone

The director of funicular transport in the Swiss alpine resort of Saas-Fee in canton Valais says he is confident that a disaster similar to that which occurred in Austria would not happen in Switzerland.

On Saturday, a funicular train caught fire in a tunnel in Austria’s Kitzsteinhorn mountain, killing nearly all of the estimated 180 passengers on board.

Bernhard Pfamatter said Saas-Fee’s “Metro-Alpin” railway was one of very few in Switzerland that was similar to Austria’s Kitzsteinhorn funicular railway.

He added that the stations of the “Metro-Alpin” were constantly under camera surveillance, and that if a fire did break out, there was an emergency exit that could be accessed.

Pfamatter said there were regular safety exercises on the Saas-Fee railway, and a fire drill had taken place in the “Metro-Alpin” tunnel two years ago.

The longest stretch of the “Metro-Alpin” railway – between Felskinn and Mittelallalin – is 1,500 metres. The train has the capacity to carry 110 passengers.

Pfamatter said he was not aware of any similar incidents in Switzerland over the past 20 years, and that “statistically, funicular railways are the safest means of transport”.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR