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Gotthard traffic nightmare returns

A truck driver waiting to cross the Alps steps out into the cold Keystone

The Alpine route through the Gotthard tunnel has once again been turned into a giant parking lot with trucks waiting in line for up to five hours.

This content was published on January 9, 2002 - 18:32

Witnesses said there was chaos on canton Ticino roads leading to the Gotthard tunnel, which is the main gateway through the Alps from Germany to Italy.

The control post at Quinto was overwhelmed with traffic, and police diverted some trucks to the San Bernardino Pass.

Transport officials told swissinfo they were braced for increased traffic levels on the roads after a break during the seasonal holidays.

The government is negotiating with authorities in Ticino the possibility of creating new waiting areas for trucks next to the three-lane highway near Bellinzona, according to Michael Gehrken from the Federal Roads Office.

Blocking traffic

Meanwhile, the right wing Lega Party has threatened to disrupt traffic to protest the chaotic situation. According to the party's president, Guiliano Bignasca, it is "very likely" that the Lega will block the highway leading to the tunnel next week "at two or three strategic places, with cars and trucks."

The deputy director of the customs management office, Hugo Geiger, has proposed a solution that calls on customs officials to inform truckers of problems ahead. Drivers could be advised to avoid Switzerland altogether in the event of severe traffic problems at the Gotthard.

The Swiss transport ministry has yet to give its opinion on suggested improvements to traffic flows at the strategic Gotthard crossing. If they give their go-ahead, the measure could be in place by February, Geiger said.

North of the Gotthard, the situation was under control. The number of trucks passing in single file through the tunnel rose from 140 to 170.
On October 24, an accident turned the Gotthard tunnel into a blazing death trap, killing eleven people.

swissinfo with agencies

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