Swiss canton approves plan to create a booking system for the Gotthard
Despite recent efforts to try and reduce traffic, the Easter holidays in 2023 still saw jams of up to 20 kilometres on both sides of the Gotthard Road Tunnel. Now, authorities in Canton Uri have approved a system that would see drivers “pre-book” their passage through the mountains.
Uri votes overwhelmingly for Gotthard booking system
By 59 votes to zero, the cantonal parliament of Uri voted for a plan that would require all road users "pre-book" a time slot to use the Gotthard Road Tunnel. Officials argued that a digital reservation system was necessary in order to manage the huge amount of traffic passing through the tunnel every day.
As the main motorway between most Swiss cities and Italy - and by extension, a main connection between northern and southern Europe - the A2 and Gotthard Road Tunnel is infamous for its long traffic jams, especially during state and school holidays. During the Easter weekend in 2023, 20 Minuten reported nearly 20 kilometres of traffic jams on either side of the tunnel, leading to delays of nearly four hours.
Uri communities cut off by Gotthard Road Tunnel, officials argue
Now, Uri cantonal councillor Ludwig Loretz argued that the traffic on either side of the tunnel is having massive repercussions on local residents because some drivers choose to divert onto smaller mountain passes, clogging up roads for inhabitants.
Simon Stadler, one of Uri’s representatives in the National Council, told 20 Minuten that measures are urgently needed, arguing that many communities have been cut off because of jams at the Gotthard. "The people of Uri feel abandoned…residents can no longer get out of their villages because of blocked roads, and in an emergency, the ambulance, fire brigade and police have no access," he added.
New system will require booking a time slot to enter the tunnel
According to 20 Minuten, the new system would see drivers pre-book a time slot to drive either south or north through the tunnel, ideally via a website or app on the driver's mobile phone. Slot capacity will be set at 1.000 passenger vehicles an hour each way - the official capacity of the tunnel.
Because of EU law, Swiss citizens and local residents will not be given “priority” over motorists from abroad. If a driver misses their slot, they will be sent to large waiting areas, with Uri officials said to be taking inspiration from the massive parking lots at ferry ports in the Mediterranean.
Swiss government questions the practicality of booking system
Despite being well supported within Uri, any changes to the tunnel have to be approved by the government and Federal Roads Office (Astra) - and most federal officials are cool on the idea, according to 20 Minuten. Speaking to the newspaper, Astra spokesperson Thomas Rohrbach argued that a pre-booking system would only move the traffic problem away from the tunnel, not solve it.
Astra also questioned the practicality of the system for drivers from abroad, with Rohrbach concluding, “Let's assume a Dutch family wants to go on holiday to Italy and has booked a slot for the Gotthard tunnel. Anything can happen on the way from the Netherlands to Switzerland, be it traffic jams, accidents, breakdowns, or the driver simply needs an unplanned, longer break.”
Thumb image credit: Shutterstock.com / Stefano Ember