A fire brings big changes

24 October 2001
A wall of flames

Following a head-on collision between two trucks, a devastating fire breaks out in the Gotthard road tunnel in 2001. Eleven people die. (24 October 2001, Ticino Cantonal Police)

On 24 October 2001 two trucks collide head-on in the Gotthard tunnel. Fire immediately breaks out, and eleven people die. Experts are alarmed because the safety mechanisms have failed: 30 seconds into the fire, visibility was down to just 2 metres while temperatures had reached 1,200 degrees. Along with the disasters in the Mont Blanc, Tauern and Kaprun tunnels, it leads to a tightening of safety standards based on a number of EU research projects. The ventilation systems in the Gotthard Base Tunnel are upgraded, while the Ceneri tunnel is redesigned to consist of two single-track tubes instead of one carrying trains in both directions. The fire is probably a factor in Swiss voters’ 2016 decision to approve construction of the second Gotthard tube.

« The head-on collision occurred on Wednesday. The fire was still burning on Thursday. On Friday, we began restoring the tunnel in three shifts. We rebuilt a kilometre of destroyed tunnel. »

Mauro Chinotti, Publication: «Drei Weltrekorde am Gotthard: Politiker, Unternehmer, Ingenieure, Tunnelbauer, Baden 2016»

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