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Alpine tunnel closure causes major holiday traffic disruption


Tailbacks to enter the Gotthard tunnel going south on Saturday reached a record since 1999, and drivers are being advised to use alternative routes. (Keystone) - Click to enlarge

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.

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 the Pentecost weekend, since the tunnel needs to cool down and be checked for any infrastructure damage.

Traffic queues at the Gotthard tunnel are not uncommon, but Saturday’s tailbacks are the longest seen since Pentecost 1999.

The traffic information service Viasuisse recommended Lötschberg and Simplon as alternative routes.

Graubunden 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.

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