Italian hauliers have blocked truck traffic at Swiss borders to protest Switzerland's policy on alpine traffic and to pressure the Italian government to take action.This content was published on January 23, 2002 - 17:04
The Italian Road Hauliers Association (FAI), which has organized the protest, is preventing truck traffic from entering Switzerland. The truckers are attempting to pressure the Italian government to intervene against Swiss transport policy.
The Italian truckers have asked Switzerland to lift its restrictions on foreign cargo traffic. This would include re-establishing heavy goods traffic in both directions through the Gotthard tunnel, and allowing trucks to transit 24 hours a day through Switzerland. They also want an improvement in the infrastructure of the roads.
Safety measures, including limiting truck traffic to a single direction at a time through the Gotthard tunnel, were stepped up in Switzerland after two trucks collided in the tunnel last October, causing a blaze that killed 11 people.
Since the restrictions were implemented, the number of trucks going through the tunnel has dropped to 3,000 a day, instead of the previous 5,000. This has caused lengthy delays in special waiting areas, and a sharp increase in transportation costs.
Police in Switzerland expect long delays at Switzerland's borders with Italy, France and Austria, until 10pm on Wednesday. The blockade began at 5am.
It affects the Chiasso and Gaggiolo border controls in canton Ticino, roads leading into canton Valais and mountain passes such as the Fréjus in France and the Brenner in Austria.
"Every day, drivers travelling across Europe face hour-long delays in Switzerland," Giorgio Colato, head of the FAI, said before the blockade went into effect. "We'll be blocking roads to show the consequences of Switzerland's policy towards international traffic."
Swiss truckers not involved
Truckers in Switzerland have not planned to support their Italian counterparts.
"Blockades and demonstrations of this kind work against Swiss importers and exporters' interests," Carlo Schmid, head of the Swiss Hauliers' Association, told swissinfo. "If the protest effectively results in a blockade, truck drivers transiting to and through Italy would be prevented from doing their work."
"This is why we do not support the FAI's initiative."
The association, however, does not fully support the Swiss government's decisions regarding cargo traffic. In a recent meeting, it discussed the possibility of no longer paying the heavy cargo road tax.
An attentive ear
The Swiss government has been attentive to comments made by the haulers' association. It decided on Monday to allow up to 3,500 trucks to cross the Gotthard tunnel, instead of the current 3,000, but has given security top priority.
"We are studying ways of helping indigenous traffic," said the spokesman for the Federal Roads Authority, Michael Gehrken. "Foreign drivers have alternative routes, but Swiss drivers don't necessarily have that choice."
by Marzio Pescia and Jeff Nottage
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