Gotthard safety improved by new freight centre

All trucks travelling to Italy through the Gotthard road tunnel are to be subject to spot checks at a new heavy goods centre which opened on Wednesday.

This content was published on September 9, 2009 minutes

The Ripshausen centre at the town of Erstfeld, about 25 kilometres from the northern entrance to the tunnel, not only boasts ultramodern facilities for checking vehicles and their loads, but also has a restaurant, service station, showers and toilets, and drivers will be able to stay there overnight.

"Ripsi loves everyone," Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger said at the opening ceremony, giving the centre an affectionate nickname. "Ripsi makes everyone happy."

He explained that the centre was good for the local population, because it would reduce noise and the danger of accidents, adding the safety measures would have a knock-on effect far beyond the local area.

But the main beneficiaries are the truck drivers, he said, since the checks will make it impossible for freight companies to cut corners by overloading their vehicles and forcing drivers to not to take breaks.

A serious fire in the Gotthard tunnel in 2001, caused when two lorries collided, and which killed 11 people, led to a number of drastic measures in an attempt to prevent a repetition.

Only a limited number of trucks are allowed in the tunnel at any one time, which has led to long queues and waiting times, and consequent problems with finding places to park.

Up to 495 trucks will be able to wait at Ripshausen until they are given a signal allowing them to leave.

The centre will have 52 full-time jobs as of 2010. Two smaller centres are planned for the southern approaches to the tunnel . and agencies

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