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Tauern fire trauma

01 Jul 1999

SAFETY in road tunnels shot to the top of the agenda in Alpine countries after a fire on May 29 in the 6·4 km single carriageway Tauern tunnel in Austria killed at least five people. Over 20 vehicles caught fire after a lorry carrying varnish was involved in a collision while waiting at traffic lights protecting road works only 800m from the northern portal.

Coming soon after the March 24 Mont Blanc disaster (RG 5.99 p257), in which 41 people died, the fire prompted Austrian Transport Minister Caspar Einem to call for a second bore to be built, hazardous goods to use rail and changes to rules governing lorries carrying hazardous cargo through tunnels.

With the Tauern road tunnel likely to be closed during the busy summer season, Austrian Federal Railways launched two daily extra inter-city services between Salzburg and Villach, both with car-carriers. Einem also said rolling motorway services for lorries would be stepped up and prices cut on the Salzburg - Ljubljana and Wels - Villach routes.

Meanwhile, an April announcement by the Swiss government that it would increase subsidies for intermodal freight from 2001 as restrictions are eased on the 28 tonne limit for transit lorries prompted Swiss Federal Railways and lobbying organisation Litra to object. Both pointed out that the funds should cover wagonload freight too - goods would move the whole distance by rail rather than simply be piggybacked through Switzerland.

  • The Swiss Ministry of Transport announced on May 28 that the SBB-BLS-Hupac group had beaten Lokoop AG formed of the Mittelthurgaubahn and the Südostbahn in a tender to run rolling motorway services between Freiburg and Novara.