Switzerland's main north-south road through the Alps is to remain closed for at least another three weeks for fear of further rockslides.This content was published on June 4, 2006 - 12:23
Authorities in canton Uri plan to remove dangerous overhanging rocks above the A2 motorway and a local road that lead to the Gotthard tunnel.
The motorway was closed on Wednesday morning after a rockslide crushed a German-registered car and killed two people.
Only hours after it was reopened on Friday, the motorway had to be closed again after more rocks plunged down the mountainside between the villages of Amsteg and Göschenen.
"After assessing all possibilities, authorities found that a detonation of the dangerous rock is the only option," the police of canton Uri said in a communiqué on Saturday evening.
It added that the motorway should partly reopen before the busy summer traffic.
"Optimistically speaking, this could be the case in three weeks' time at the earliest."
A retaining wall that had already been planned before the rockslides is to be adapted to the new situation and erected within the next five months.
Experts feel that they will be able to say in the middle of the week when the roads will open again.
A geologist who specialises in the region said that rockslides could happen any time at around 50 locations between Amsteg and Göschenen at the northern entrance of the Gotthard road tunnel.
Franz Keller told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that the majority of rocks that could reach the road were around three tons each but some might even weigh up to 15 tons.
The closure of the popular route came at the start of the busy Pentecost holiday weekend with many motorists heading south, leading to long traffic jams on alternative routes such as the San Bernardino.
Tailbacks of up to ten kilometres were recorded along the San Bernardino on Saturday, with the situation hampered by an accident on the northbound carriageway in which five people were injured.
As a result of the closure of the roads the Swiss Federal Railways, whose line runs along the other side of the steep valley, put on extra trains to cope with extra demand.
Railway officials said apart from special trains that had already been put on for the holiday weekend, they had added another 4,000 seats on the route to ease the situation.
The BLS Lötschberg railway has also added extra capacity to its car-carrying trains through the Lötschberg rail tunnel which links cantons Bern and Valais.
swissinfo with agencies
On weekdays about 10,000 vehicles pass through the Gotthard road tunnel.
Between 12,000 and 13,000 vehicles a day use the tunnel during normal weekends.
During the Easter holiday between 20,000 and 25,000 vehicles were recorded every day.
The 17-kilometre Gotthard road tunnel is the main north-south axis through the Alps and is often a bottleneck.
Rockslides on the A2 motorway occur mainly near the village of Gurtnellen in canton Uri. The motorway leads directly to the Gotthard road tunnel. The detour over the Gotthard pass comes only after the dangerous rockslide area.
Closure of the A2 has led to traffic disruption on the north-south axis. Alternatives to the Gotthard include the A13 over the San Bernardino, the Mont Blanc tunnel, as well as the Lukmanier, Julier, Maloja, Simplon and Great St Bernard passes.
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