ENGINEERS WORKING round the clock on repairs to the St Gotthard tunnel have managed to bring forward its reopening date, following a fire which killed 11 motorists in October (NCEI December 2001).
Swiss transport officials had expressed their growing concern about safety in other Alpine tunnels following massive increases in traffic volumes caused by the closure.
The tunnel is a vital link between northern and southern Europe, and traffic levels in the nearby San Bernardino tunnel have risen sixfold since the crash. Officials fear this could lead to a further disaster.
It was originally feared the St Gotthard tunnel would be closed until well into this year, but surveys revealed damage was not as great as first feared.
Swiss officials have still to finalise details of restrictions on traffic using the reopened St Gotthard tunnel. Only allowing lorries to travel through the tunnel in one direction at a time, and with a gap of at least 150m between them, are options considered likely.
INFOPLUS Go to www. nceplus. co. uk lFears of a fire have prompted construction of three new escape cross passages in the UK's Kingsway Mersey Tunnel in Liverpool. Tunnel operator Merseytravel has awarded specialist tunnelling contractor Amco Donelon the -3.1M contract to build the three 3.3m diameter cross passages between the twin bores of the tunnel, working at night to limit disruption. Work is expected to finish by the summer.