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Swiss authorities want to avoid road chaos

There is no way through the Gotthard route on the A2 at present Keystone

Switzerland wants to make rapid contact with its neighbours as a result of the closure of the main north-south axis – the Gotthard route – due to repeated rockslides.

This content was published on June 5, 2006 - 16:39

The aim is to formulate recommendations for heavy goods traffic to bypass Switzerland because the A2 motorway will remain closed for at least three weeks.

Authorities are now preparing to detonate dangerous overhanging rocks between Amsteg and Göschenen at the northern end of the Gotthard road tunnel.

A rockslide last Wednesday crushed a German-registered car on the motorway, killing its two passengers.

The Swiss Federal Roads Authority was hoping on Monday that foreign trucks would arrive in Switzerland in a staggered pattern from Tuesday because last Friday was a holiday in neighbouring Italy.

Spokesman Thomas Rohrbach said contact with neighbouring countries was a "high priority" because Switzerland alone was not in a position to dictate what detour recommendations should be given to heavy goods traffic.

He added that its neighbours would consider a unilateral decision by Switzerland highly unfriendly.

Detours

Customs officers on the Swiss border will inform truck drivers about the closure of the Gotthard and the detour possibilities over the San Bernardino, Great St Bernard and Simplon routes.

The authorities in Bern believe, however, that by now international road hauliers know about the problems at the Gotthard and are making plans accordingly.

In a related development, Switzerland's truck lobby has demanded the government to create a regulation permitting internal traffic to have priority.

A spokesman for the Swiss Road Transport Association told Swiss television that domestic traffic should take precedence over import/export traffic and transit traffic.

Bern is against an Italian suggestion to ease the ban on heavy goods vehicles travelling at night. "The night ban is sacrosanct," commented Rohrbach.

Wintry conditions

In other news, some Alpine pass routes are still closed as a result of the wintry conditions that returned to Switzerland at the end of May.

"If the weather had played ball all the passes would have been open at Pentecost," commented Sepp Inderkum, president of an Alpine pass lobby group that wants to push tourism along the pass roads.

Although local hotels and restaurants are hardly receiving any customers because of the cold wet weather, Inderkum has understanding for the closures or late opening of pass roads.

"Security has priority. You cannot do too much against mother nature," he commented.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

On weekdays about 10,000 vehicles pass through the Gotthard road tunnel.
Between 12,000 and 13,000 vehicles a day use the tunnel during normal weekends.
During the Easter holiday between 20,000 and 25,000 vehicles were recorded every day.

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In brief

The 17-kilometre Gotthard road tunnel is the main north-south axis through the Alps and is often a bottleneck.

Rockslides on the A2 motorway occur mainly near the village of Gurtnellen in canton Uri. The motorway leads directly to the Gotthard road tunnel. The detour over the Gotthard pass comes only after the dangerous rockslide area.

Closure of the A2 has led to traffic disruption on the north-south axis. Alternatives to the Gotthard include the A13 over the San Bernardino, the Mont Blanc tunnel, as well as the Lukmanier, Julier, Maloja, Simplon and Great St Bernard passes.

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