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Saint Gotthard tunnel reopens with new restrictions

SAINT GOTTHARD tunnel in the Swiss Alps reopened in December following the fire that killed 11 people in October 2001.

It took fire fighters 36 hours to bring the blaze under control following a head-on collision between two lorries.

It was originally feared that the tunnel would be closed until well in to 2002, but surveys revealed that damage was not as great as was first thought.

Engineers worked around the clock to repair the tunnel, part of the vital road link between northern and southern Europe.

There has been growing concern over safety in other Alpine tunnels which experienced huge increases in traffic since the Gotthard closure.

Traffic in the nearby San Bernardino tunnel increased sixfold after the crash. Officials feared this would lead to another disaster, so were keen to get the Gotthard tunnel open as soon as possible.

The Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy, where a fire killed 39 people in March 1999, remains shut, putting greater pressure on the San Bernardino.

As GE went to press, officials were still finalising the restrictions that will be put on traffic when the Gotthard reopened.

Likely options include only allowing lorries to travel through the tunnel in one direction at a time and with a gap of at least 150m between them.

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