October 29, 2001

The Federal Department for Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communication (DETEC) has taken emergency measures to deal with the traffic problems created by the closure of the Gotthard tunnel. In particular, extra rail capacity is being made available for goods vehicles and cars. In addition, plans have been made to divert through traffic coming from Basle to Western Switzerland (Great St Bernhard, Simplon). Traffic will also be diverted around the Greater Zurich agglomeration. Federal President Moritz Leuenberger has assured the government of the Grisons that the canton will receive the full support of the Confederation. The Director of the Federal Office of Transport (FOT), Max Friedli, has discussed the current problem of heavy goods traffic while in Rome.

This content was published on November 20, 2001 - 12:27

In its comprehensive analysis of traffic crossing the Alps via Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) has come to the conclusion that there will be sufficient road capacity available in November for both private cars and goods vehicles. In other words, the accident which occurred in the Gotthard tunnel last Wednesday is not going to result in a total collapse of Switzerland's road transport system. However, some problems have emerged on the alternative route over the San Bernardino (A13), where traffic on the day of the accident rose from 3 500 vehicles to 9 000. The main difficulty ahead lies in finding alternative routes for the 4 500 heavy goods vehicles which would normally use the Gotthard tunnel every day. To this end, the DETEC has set in place emergency measures to shift this traffic onto the railways and other transit roads.

The plan provides for through traffic coming from Basle via Berne to be diverted over the Great St Bernhard or the Simplon passes, with the necessary road signs being set up by the cantons affected. At the present time, the Simplon and Great St Bernhard have sufficient spare capacity to take around 1 000 lorries per day. Vehicles coming from Singen and Lindau (Germany) and Bregenz (Austria) will be diverted via the A13. At the same time, however, the San Bernardino route must remain available for internal and destination and source traffic, not least to ensure continuity of supplies to the Ticino. Account has also been taken of the concern felt in the Grisons where, for road safety reasons, consideration is being given to the possibility of using the road traffic law to establish a quota system for heavy goods vehicles. According to the calculations of the FEDRO, an additional 1 000 lorries per day can be expected on the San Bernardino route.

In the course of a conversation in Schuls (GR), Federal President Leuenberger briefed Stefan Engler, the head of the government of the Grisons, on the emergency measures being taken and assured him that the canton would be receiving the full support of the Confederation in overcoming the current traffic problems. Mr Leuenberger expressed understanding for the view that not all of the diverted traffic could be routed via the San Bernardino. However, he pointed out that a quota system for heavy goods vehicles would hardly be possible at the present time, on the one hand for practical reasons (not feasible to sort the traffic) and on the other for legal reasons (principle of non-discrimination).

To overcome the traffic problem in the Greater Zurich area, the DETEC recommends a general diversion, with traffic being directed onto the A13 via Lucerne and the Hirzel (A2, A14, A3). There is no reason for lifting the legal prohibition on lorries driving by night, as proposed by certain parties abroad.

The railways, for their part, have increased their capacities for carrying heavy goods vehicles (rolling highways, containers, trucks). Spare capacity is still available on the Gotthard and Lötschberg route and could be increased immediately if necessary. A coordinated rail plan (SBB/BLS) is ready.

Contacts with Rome, Vienna, Paris and Berlin

There has been a whole series of contacts at the international level. In this context, Max Friedli, the director of the Federal Office of Transport, on the occasion of a visit to Rome, briefed his Italian counterpart, Mr Libassi, on the traffic situation and the planned diversions. The Italian authorities expressed their understanding for the situation in Switzerland. They hoped that the road tunnel would reopen soon and expected that the necessary measures would not discriminate against foreign hauliers. Contact have also been made with Switzerland's German, Austrian and French partners.

Berne, 29 October 2001

DETEC – Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication

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