Mont Blanc reopening could ease Swiss congestion

Rescue workers have been practising fire drills ahead of this weekend's Mont Blanc tunnel reopening

The reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel this weekend looks set to ease the impact of trans-European traffic on Swiss roads.

This content was published on March 6, 2002 - 11:06

The tunnel between France and Italy has been closed since March of 1999 when an accident triggered an inferno, killing 39 people.

Now, three years and over €250million (SFr370 million) later, the tunnel has been fitted with new security and ventilation systems.

Cars first

From Saturday, passenger cars will be allowed through, with trucks being given access at the end of the month. Commercial traffic will only be allowed through the tunnel in one direction at a time.

The decision to reopen has been welcomed by the Swiss Government, which is under pressure to increase the capacity of Switzerland's Gotthard tunnel. Restrictions have been imposed on trucks travelling through the Gotthard following last October's fatal fire in which 11 people died.

The closure of the two tunnels placed considerable pressure on Switzerland's traffic network, triggering long delays and congestion.

Refit vital

A spokesman for transport minister Moritz Leuenberger said the lengthy Mont Blanc tunnel refit had been necessary. "We welcome the decision. The goal was to improve security," said the spokesman.

This weekend's reopening of the 12-km long tunnel is likely to be accompanied by protests by environmental groups.

swissinfo and agencies

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