Former construction workers and local officials have marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Gotthard road tunnel, at the time the world’s longest.
In the town of Airolo, at the Gotthard’s southern entrance, they laid wreaths in memory of the 19 workers who died during its construction. Sunday’s commemoration also included a mass and a blessing and ended with a meal.
In October 2001, 11 people were killed and many others injured after a collision involving two trucks created a blaze in the tunnel.
It was closed for about two months after the accident for repair work and cleaning up operations.
The tunnel, which is just under 17 km long, remained the longest road tunnel for 20 years, until Norway’s Laerdal tunnel – 24.5 km – opened in 2000. Since then the Zhongnanshan tunnel in China, at just over 18 km, has pushed the Gotthard into third place.
In the last 30 years, more than 160 million vehicles have used the tunnel, which is on a major transit route between northern and southern Europe.
The Federal Roads Office has warned that the Gotthard needs substantial refurbishment, which will entail closing it for two years between 2018 and 2020, once the new base rail tunnel is in operation, which is due to happen in 2017.
swissinfo.ch and agencies