Venice authorities will fit GPS devices and number plates on all the lagoon city’s gondolas to monitor their movements and prevent a repeat of the accident that cost the life of a German tourist in August.
The measures are part of a 26-point plan drawn up by a senior transport official to improve safety in the city’s increasingly crowded waterways. The area around the Rialto Bridge, where Joachim Vogel, 50, was killed when the gondola in which he was travelling hit a water taxi, is a particular cause for concern, according to the transport councillor, Ugo Bergamo, who presented his action plan at the weekend.
In addition to monitoring all vessels with GPS devices, Mr Bergamo intends to stop gondolas lining up in rows to serenade tourists and to remove jetties that protrude too far into canals. He also wants to slash levels of traffic, including motor boats, in clogged areas, such as the Rialto Bridge.
“We have no alternative,” he said. “We can’t pretend that we don’t have a problem. We intend to reduce the water traffic in crucial parts of the Grand Canal by 50 per cent.”
When the measures kick in on 4 November, 5,000 vessels will require GPS devices. The city’s gondolas will subsequently have to have them as well. Water taxis also face new restrictions. Forty surveillance cameras placed over the Grand Canal between the railway station and St Mark’s Square will be on the lookout for offenders.
But there may be other changes on the way, too. Blood and urine tests performed on the gondolier, Stefano Pizzaggia, involved in the August accident reportedly suggested he was under the influence of cocaine and cannabis at the time.
Emergency services carried out a simulated rescue operation on Monday, to test the response to a collision between vessels further from the shore.