Catching up with the major mountain roads in Switzerland – and one in Spain – as the winter locks begin to wear off.
Plus, a roundup of truck news: A40 Duisburg bridge reopens, a new EU Road Safety Agency coming in June, a new secure truck park in Dunkirk, French mega haulier Norbert Dentressangle is taken over by a US firm and, the Calais-Bordeaux ‘rail freight motorway’ project is cancelled.
SWISS MOUNTAIN PASS OPENINGS
Switzerland’s major mountain roads throw off their winter locks from now until mid-June.
With winter – almost – out of the way, there’s more certainty now about the opening dates of Switzerland’s major mountain passes.
The excellent east-west H19 Oberalppass in central Switzerland is already ready to drive.
Meanwhile, along with Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Splugen Pass – the dividing line between the Eastern and Western Alps – and Fluela Pass, near Davos in eastern Switzerland, both opened yesterday (1 May).
(Actually, either the message is slow in getting through to the traffic sites or, according to TomTom, Fluela is still closed eastbound.)
The next major opening won’t be for a couple of weeks. The fabulous Albula Pass, star of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – between Davos and St Moritz – opens on Wednesday 13 May according to Touring Club Schweiz (TCS), as does the famous H13 San Bernardino between Bellinzona and Chur in the south.
The awful Klausenpass between A3 Glarus and A2 Altdorf in central Switzerland should also be free on the same day.
A little while later, on Tuesday 26 May, come the terrible twosome of Forcola di Livigno – linking the always-open Bernina Pass across the Italian border towards Stelvio, basically between St Moritz and Bormio – shortly followed by Umbrail, between Ofenpass/Fluelapass and Stelvio.
The beginning of June sees the nice-enough Nufenen – east-west from the bottom of Gotthard – and the amazing Grimsel Pass, which picks up from the east end of Nufenen, and the Great Saint Bernard Pass between Martigny and Aosta (Italy) in western Switzerland.
H19 Furka Pass – between Gotthard and Grimsel – opens on Wednesday 3 June. Whether it’s worth waiting for depends on whether you are excited to drive a road that has barely changed since James Bond was there in Goldfinger.
Finally, Das Loop – the six major passes centered around Andermatt and Gotthard – should be ready for business from Friday 12 June with the opening of Sustenpass. It connects the north end of Grimsel with the A2 just north of Gotthard.
For more information see the weekly updates from Touring Club Switzerland (German only but easy to understand) or, similarly, the Alpenstrassen page at ADAC for France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Opening dates can only be approximate; passes can and do close at short notice due to the weather, even at the height of summer. See our PassFinder page for alternatives nearby.
roundup: GERMANY. The A40 Neuenkamp Bridge – shut to 3.5t+ trucks eastbound to Duisburg for the past two months – has re-opened to heavy vehicles cutting an hour-long detour. Thousands of drivers were fined after missing the signs. Work is due to start on the westbound carriageway next week according to Strassen NRW but it’s not clear yet if that will now be barred for trucks. UPDATE 12 May: the westbound carriageway is now closed to trucks with one lane open for cars for the next five weeks according to local reports though it is still open to express buses. HAULAGE. Ask and you will be given is the lesson. Recent heavy lobbying on ‘social dumping’ from industry groups – especially in Italy and France – and tightening of driver’s hours rules by Germany, Belgium and France has resulted (according to a scoop today from Brussels-upstart POLITICO Europe) in a new EU ‘Road Safety Agency’ to police the transport sector, particularly remote working laws. Full plans are expected to be revealed in June. See the latest here. PARKING. A new €2.5m truck park has opened on the N316 into Dunkirk Port, just off J53 of the A16 Calais-Dunkirk reports Lloyd’s Loading List. Priced at €2.70 per hour – up to €27 for 24 hours – the secure site, ring fenced and policed by 40 CCTV cameras, can accommodate 250 vehicles. It also has a 24/7 restaurant, toilets and showers, self-serve launderette and free wi-fi access. See DK Trucks Park for more. HAULAGE. Lyon-based mega haulier Norbert Dentressangle, with its 7,700-strong fleet of distinctive, red liveried trucks, has been bought by American firm XPO Logistics. The €3.24bn deal is subject only to US and German antitrust clearances; financing is already in place says the statement. According to Commercial Motor, the vehicles will be re-branded XPO whose own livery, in the US, is predominantly white. Meanwhile, the French government will reportedly today cancel plans for the Pas-de-Calais-Landes ‘rail freight motorway’. The line was intended to carry 85,000 trucks each year between north France and the south west. Transport minister Alain Vidal says the project is too expensive, uneconomic and would be too disruptive according to France Bleu.