Drivers speedingin reopened tunnel

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The Independent Online

Safety restrictions imposed on the newly reopened Mont Blanc road tunnel are being ignored by motorists, French police said yesterday.

Safety restrictions imposed on the newly reopened Mont Blanc road tunnel are being ignored by motorists, French police said yesterday.

On the day that coaches and small trucks were allowed into the tunnel for the first time since 39 people died in a fire three years ago, gendarmes said speeding and other motoring offences by car drivers were running at 50 a day.

The tunnel reopened to cars a month ago, with a speed limit of 70 kilometres an hour (43mph) and strict orders that all vehicles should drive 150 metres apart. Philippe Legendre, the local gendarmerie chief, said the "average speed" in the tunnel was 100kph and distance rules were ignored.

Gendarmes had issued 1,500 tickets since the tunnel reopened to cars, including one to a motorist who drove through at night at 140kph, he said. The widespread flouting of the law will reinforce opposition on the French side of the tunnel to its planned reopening to heavy trucks in June. A group of protesters gathered two miles from the French tunnel mouth in the Chamonix valley yesterday repeating their threats to blockade heavy goods traffic.

The long delay in rebuilding and reopening the tunnel has caused a dispute between France and Italy. Rome complained to the European Commission last month before agreeing to a staggered reopening of the tunnel to light goods traffic and coaches this week and heavy lorries in June.

The people of the Chamonix valley have sworn to block any resumption of heavy freight traffic. They say the valley was being asphyxiated by 2,600 lorries a day.

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