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Swiss defend transport policy amid Gotthard gridlock

The Swiss government wants to end tailbacks at the Gotthard Keystone Archive

The government has rejected accusations that its plans to fine truck drivers who use the Gotthard tunnel without permission contravene international rules.

This content was published on January 11, 2002 - 20:55

Responding to criticism from transport organisations, Hans Werder of the Transport Ministry said the proposals had already been discussed with Switzerland's neighbours. "We do not think this is a system that is in conflict with any international treaty that we have," he told swissinfo.

The Geneva-based International Transport Union as well as Swiss Road Hauliers' Association say the measure would contravene a bilateral agreement on transport between Switzerland and the European Union.

"There is the problem that we have a contract with the European Union, which agreed to allow traffic to transit through Switzerland. Therefore we cannot say now 'sorry, we're closing Switzerland to international traffic'," said Beat Keiser, spokesman for the Hauliers' Association.

Long tailbacks

The Swiss government on Wednesday called for urgent action to reduce long tailbacks on the approach to the Gotthard Tunnel, which re-opened in December, after being closed for two months because of a fire.

Under proposals drawn up by the Federal Roads Authority, Swiss customs officials in the border city of Basel - one of the main entry points for lorries passing through Switzerland - would be given the power to prohibit truck drivers from exiting the country via the Gotthard Tunnel.

Werder said that the measure would only be imposed as a last resort, and that fines would be levied against drivers who fail to heed the instructions of border officials.

He added that, even if were introduced, he did not expect it to be "used very often".

The measure could be enforced as early as next month.

But Keiser fears there will be repercussions for Switzerland if the government presses ahead with its proposals.

European Union countries which border Switzerland, Keiser claimed, may take counter measures to "block Swiss transporters all over Europe".

Keiser added that he does not believe the proposals will ease pressure on the Gotthard Tunnel.

"Even if we take these measures and close Switzerland to international traffic, we will still have...traffic jams and queues," he commented.

"These measures are politically dangerous, are not useful and are just too late. This problem will stay with us for at least the next five years."

swissinfo

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