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Task force calls for improvements in tunnel safety

Tunnel

(Keystone)

A government-appointed task force set up to review conditions in Swiss road tunnels has called on the authorities to significantly boost spending on safety, and to expand a public information campaign.

The Tunnel Task Force urged the government to release an extra SFr80-100 million to improve safety standards in motorway tunnels over the next four to five years.

The group was set up last year following deadly accidents in tunnels in neighbouring France and Austria. In March 1999, 42 people were killed in a fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel connecting France and Italy. Just two months later, five people were killed in the Tauern tunnel in western Austria.

The accidents renewed the debate about the safety of Switzerland's road tunnels, which make up just over ten per cent of the motorway network. The proportion is set to rise to 15 per cent by 2015.

In its final report, the task force said the dangers of road tunnels must be taken seriously, but that there was no cause for panic. It added there was no need for major work to be done on Switzerland's tunnels.

The commission noted that the main cause of accidents was the behaviour of drivers, and said tunnel safety could be significantly improved through training, information and additional rules.

It therefore recommended including questions in driving tests on how to react to a traffic jam or a fire in a tunnel. It called for an information campaign carried out during the spring holidays to be extended over the summer, and for greater controls on hazardous goods' transports.

The task force also upheld the findings of a German study on European road tunnels, which last year found three tunnels in eastern and southern Switzerland in need of improvements.

swissinfo with agencies

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