Holiday traffic jams build at Gotthard tunnel

A controversial second tunnel will not be ready until at least 2030. Keystone

The start of the Easter holidays in many Swiss cantons has been causing long tailbacks at the Gotthard tunnel in central Switzerland, with waits of some two hours at the northern end. 

This content was published on April 13, 2019 - 18:34

At the height of the congestion around midday, the traffic queue to enter the tunnel going south stretched for 14 kilometres, according to the Touring Club of Switzerland (TCS). This had eased to two kilometres by 6pm.  

For people travelling south, TCS recommended alternative routes, notably the Simplon tunnel. 

The traffic situation is also complicated by the fact that numerous high passes over the Alps remain closed because of wintry conditions.

The 17-kilometre Gotthard tunnel, which runs from Göschenen to Airolo under the famous Gotthard pass, is one of the main thoroughfares through central Switzerland, linking the German-speaking north with the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in the south.

Opened in 1980, the road sees up to 17,000 vehicles pass through every day. A separate, 57-kilometre train line – unveiled in 2016 as the longest in the world – also cuts through the mountain. 

In February 2016, Swiss voters gave the go-ahead to build a second road tunnel, to allow for renovations of the existing infrastructure and ensure better connections between north and south. In so doing, they snubbed the concerns of opponents who see the second road tunnel as a threat to plans to cap transalpine road traffic and push heavy-weight trucks onto rail. 

The new tunnel, which is estimated to cost around CHF2.7 billion ($2.8 billion), will not open until 2030 at the earliest.

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