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Gotthard closed over holiday weekend

The Gotthard tunnel motorway is closed for the entire holiday weekend Keystone

Fear of further rockslides has led to the closure for the foreseeable future of Switzerland's main north-south road axis through the Alps – the Gotthard tunnel.

This content was published on June 2, 2006 - 15:30

The A2 motorway was originally closed on Wednesday morning after a rockslide crushed a car and killed two people.

Police closed the motorway between Amsteg and Göschenen – less than two hours after it had been re-opened – after more rocks fell on Friday. None landed on the motorway.

At 12.30pm rocks fell towards the motorway and nearby roads, which were promptly blocked off.

Geologists were called in and judged there was a renewed threat to the motorway and said more small and medium rockfalls were to be expected over the coming days and weeks.

No residential areas were reported to be in any danger.

Alternative routes

The closure comes at the start of the busy Pentecost holiday weekend with many motorists heading south.

Traffic experts advised drivers to take other passes, such as the San Bernadino, the main alternative route linking northern Europe and Italy.

However, the San Bernadino's capacity is only an eighth the size of the Gotthard's and fearsome tailbacks are to be expected over the weekend now the A2 will remain closed.

There was no information on when the motorway would be re-opened.

Police said drivers heading south to Switzerland's southern canton of Ticino or Italy could go via the Julier or the Flüela Passes and then onto the Bernina Pass.

The Lötschberg and the Simplon tunnels are also options for south-going traffic.

Boulders

The rock fall occurred early on Wednesday morning on the northern approach to the Gotthard tunnel. Huge boulders rolled on to the A2 motorway hitting German-registered car and killing its two occupants.

Police redirected north- and south-bound traffic eastward to the San Bernardino Pass but by Wednesday afternoon traffic jams of up to 15 km had formed on the north and south sides of the San Bernardino.

It is thought the slide may have been triggered by recent heavy rain and snowfalls.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss transport policy aims to move freight traffic off the roads and motorways and on to the railways, particularly for freight traffic transiting the country.

Two new rail tunnels are currently under construction: the 57-km Gotthard (which will be the longest in the world) and the 35-km Lötschberg. They are scheduled for completion in 2012 and 2007 respectively.

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