Great St Bernard Tunnel
|Italian side of the tunnel|
The Great St Bernard Tunnel (French: Tunnel du Grand-Saint-Bernard), Italian: Traforo del Gran San Bernardo, German: Tunnel des Grossen Sankt Bernhard) is a road tunnel complementing the Great St Bernard Pass, linking Martigny (in the Swiss canton of Valais) with Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses (in the Aosta Valley, in north western Italy).
There is a toll to use the tunnel, payable in full even for drivers who already display on their vehicles a Swiss motorway sticker. The tunnel comprises a section of the E27 route linking Belfort with Aosta.
For most of its 5,798 metres length the tunnel runs in a straight line, but incorporating a gentle slope. The northern end is 1,918 m (6,293 ft) above sea level while the southern end is only 1,875 m (6,152 ft) above sea level. At both ends, the approach road to the tunnel is covered by a gallery / avalanche shelter in order to minimize the risk of access to the tunnel being temporarily blocked during bad weather. Any frontier formalities are handled at the tunnel's north end, although the actual national frontier is 2,938 m (9,639 ft) from the Swiss tunnel entrance and 2,860 m (9,380 ft) from the Italian entrance.
The name of the tunnel comes directly from that of the Grand St Bernard Pass, and thereby indirectly from the saint who in 1049 founded the hospice high above the tunnel, that also bears his name. Tourists on the Swiss side additionally find themselves reminded by road side billboards of the saint's association with St Bernard dogs.
Before the tunnel was constructed, the frontier was passable here only using the Great St Bernard Pass. The pass remains an option in summer, but is normally closed by snow between October and May, and sometimes for longer. The tunnel is intended to be usable for 365 days every year.
The tunnel was opened to traffic on 19 March 1964, having been under construction since 1958. It became the longest road tunnel in the world, replacing the Vielha tunnel which was opened in 1948.
The approach roads have been progressively improved, and most recently the avalanche covers extended on the southern side. The Mont Blanc tunnel tragedy of 1999 prompted a major review of road tunnel safety in several countries including Switzerland, and significant safety upgrades are planned for the Grand St Bernard Tunnel. A speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) is already in force inside the tunnel.
Access and popularity
The tunnel itself, and most of the connecting road between Aosta and Martigny are only single carriageway roads, and for most big city destinations in Switzerland and Italy the toll free St Gotthard Tunnel and Simplon Pass offer more direct or at least faster routes. This and the toll ensure that the Grand San Bernard Tunnel rarely suffers from the levels of holiday season congestion that plague the more popular Alpine crossing routes, however.
- Motor bike, motor bike with sidecar, motor bike with trailer.
- Vehicles with 2 or more axles, height measured at front axle, lower than 1.30m and total height lower than or equal to 2 m.
- Vehicles with two or more axles with height exceeding 2 m, lower or equal to 3 m.
- Two axle truck , total height over 3 m; two axle bus with total height over 3 m.
- Three axle truck, total height over 3 m; three axle bus, total height over 3 m.
- Vehicles with four or more axles with total height over 3m
Alfonso XIII (Vielha) Tunnel
5.24 km (3.26 mi)
|World's longest road tunnel
1964 – 1965
Mont Blanc Tunnel
11.61 km (7.22 mi)