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Traffic poses problem at Gotthard tunnel

With increasing traffic we could see 96 "traffic-jam-days" at the Gotthard per year

(Keystone Archive)

As holidaymakers head south, many find the Gotthard motorway increasingly frustrating, because of traffic. According to a newly released study, congestion could amount to some 1,600 hours of traffic jams per year by 2020.

The study commissioned by the Swiss Federal Roads Authority (Astra) bases its figures on a 30 per cent increase in traffic by 2020, which predicts that the total number of "traffic-jam-days" could rise to 75 southbound and 96 northbound.

According to the newspaper "SonntagsZeitung", motorists already face 55 to 60 days of traffic jams around the Gotthard tunnel per year. Last Saturday the queue reached a length of 10 kilometres.

Michael Gehrken, press officer for Astra, blames the increase in traffic mainly on border controls at Chiasso and not on the traffic driving through the Gotthard tunnel itself. To find a solution to the problem, a task force was set up at the end of March.

According to Gehrken, the goal of the task force is not to deal with holiday traffic, but with commercial traffic. He cites as a major cause for congestion the fact that truck drivers park their vehicles on the motorways' shoulder when dealing with border controls and customs.

If trucks carrying heavy loads parked at Chiasso, other vehicles could not get past them, Gehrken said. "With the new parking system, however, other traffic can get through. This was not possible in April but it has been changed," he told swissinfo.

The study revealed that by the year 2020, a single traffic jam could last as long as 65 hours and motorists could become stuck for up to 6.5 hours. However, the study warned, this figure could rise to as much as 20 hours per individual.

If traffic increases by 50 per cent in the tunnel, the study authors expect the hours wasted in traffic jams to increase to nearly 3,000 hours per year on the Gotthard motorway.

However, the study also suggests that the number of traffic jams could be reduced significantly over the next few years if the tunnel's capacities are increased by 25 per cent.

This includes introducing speed limits, installing traffic lights at the tunnel and stopping cars prematurely in case of a traffic jam in the tunnel.

swissinfo


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