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Gotthard Pass reopens

The Gotthard Pass opened to traffic on Friday

(Keystone)

The Gotthard Pass, the high altitude road link between German-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland, has reopened after the long winter season.

The pass reopened on Friday and can now be used by vehicles weighing less than 32 tons. It is the only direct route alternative to the Gotthard tunnel, which provides the main north-south axis through the Alps.

The reopening had been eagerly awaited this year, because of traffic problems caused after a fire in the Gotthard tunnel last October, which left 11 people dead. The tunnel was shut after the fire and reopened shortly before Christmas.

The pass, which offers traffic an alternative to the Gotthard tunnel, had initially opened on May 4, but was swiftly closed after three metres of snow fell.

Congestion issues

In the aftermath of the tunnel tragedy, transport and congestion, especially through tunnels and mountain passes, became an important political issue in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe.

Josef Brand, the head of canton Uri's road office told swissinfo that the pass can offer some relief to the heavy traffic on the A2 motorway, which runs through the Gotthard Tunnel. "The traffic jams will get shorter and the traffic flow will improve," he said.

He added that his department had come under pressure to open the pass earlier, but he pointed out that safety was his prime concern and therefore all the snow had to be cleared before the pass could reopen.

swissinfo


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