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Traffic jams keep holidaymakers waiting

A motorist waits to pass through the Gotthard tunnel Keystone

The patience of motorists on Switzerland's roads was put to the test after Ascension Day Holiday traffic clogged up the main north-south axis road and the Italian border.

This content was published on May 24, 2001 - 19:14

Earlier on Thursday, holidaymakers faced a 13-kilometre tailback, adding up to four hours to their journey time. Tailbacks on the southbound road through the Gotthard tunnel eased up later in the day.

The two-lane motorway, which cuts through the Alps, found itself unable to cope with the increased number of vehicles. It is Switzerland's main north-south axis route, linking German-speaking cantons with their Italian-speaking neighbour.

It was a similar story at the border crossings between Switzerland and Italy, and Switzerland and France.

At the Chiasso border checkpoint with Italy, frustrated motorists found themselves in a jam stretching back six kilometres. Traffic flows on the A1 trunk road into France, especially at Bardonnex in canton Geneva, returned to normal later, after coming to a standstill on Thursday morning.

The problem had been exacerbated by the closure of most of the roads leading through Switzerland's main alpine passes.

The Swiss Federal Railways has laid on extra trains to cope with the massive influx of tourists transiting Switzerland. Some 29 extra trains will ferry visitors through the Alps between Wednesday and Sunday.

The level of traffic and tailbacks has increased sharply since the beginning of this year when an agreement with the European Union on trucks transiting Switzerland came into effect.

The Chiasso border crossing point, from Ticino into Italy, has been unable to cope with the increased truck traffic, leading to chaos, particularly during peak holiday times.

The transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, is next week scheduled to meet officials from cantons bordering the A2 motorway from Basel to Ticino to try to find a solution.

The Swiss government's special task force, set up to deal with the issue, has been given until the end of this month by the authorities in canton Ticino to come up with a solution.

Canton Ticino has said that unless satisfactory measures are taken, it will limit the number of trucks allowed to wait for their border crossing by the side of the motorway - a move which could lead to massive tailbacks affecting several cantons.

swissinfo with agencies

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