Gotthard Tailbacks: Alpine San Bernardino tunnel closure causes major holiday traffic disruption.
Traffic queues of up to 28 kilometres were reported at the northern entrance to the Gotthard tunnel on Saturday, owing to a long weekend and the closure of another major Alpine road tunnel because of a fire.
Saturday has seen the longest tailbacks at the Gotthard tunnel since Pentecost 1999, entailing waits of some five-hours.
As well as being a holiday weekend, the San Bernadino tunnel in southeast Switzerland was closed on Friday afternoon after a German tourist bus caught fire in the tunnel, leaving two people with minor injuries. It is expected to remain closed over this Pentecost weekend, since the tunnel needs to cool down and be checked for any infrastructure damage.
Police said the German coach carrying 22 passengers drove north in the San Bernardino tunnel early on Friday afternoon. It caught fire some 500 metres from the end of the tunnel near Hinterrhein, when the driver noticed smoke and stopped. A fire alarm alerted local fire and rescue services.
All the coach passengers were able to leave safely and there were no serious casualties, police said. Two people were treated for suspected smoke inhalation. It is not yet known what caused the fire.
The Gotthard tunnel 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.
+ Read more about previous traffic congestion at the Gotthard tunnel
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.
More on: Swiss Info
Featured Image: Gotthard tunnel traffic – Uri Bilder- GOTTHARD TAILBACKS: Alpine tunnel closure causes major holiday traffic disruption