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Questions and Answers

Answers to frequently asked questions

How long will the construction and maintenance work take?

The various tasks will be carried out in stages. According to the current schedule, the emergency galleries for the tunnels between Interlaken and Brienz should be completed by the beginning of 2017. Construction work for the maintenance project will then commence on the stretch between Interlaken-Ost and Brienz, and is expected to be completed in 2021. For logistical reasons, it will not be possible to simultaneously implement the maintenance project and construct the emergency galleries. Work on the emergency gallery in the Simmenfluh tunnel will be completed in 2016, while the emergency galleries in the Leissigen and Soliwald tunnels are not expected to be completed before 2017. It is not possible to provide a more precise forecast for the two latter tunnels because the planning approval procedure has not yet been concluded.

How much will the construction work interfere with traffic flow?

The construction of the emergency galleries will result in very little interference with traffic flow. It is only during the construction of the lateral connections between the main tube and the escape gallery that the stretch concerned will have to be occasionally closed at night.

During construction work relating to the maintenance project on the stretch between Interlaken-Ost and Brienz, which is scheduled to commence in 2017, the stretch will be open to traffic without interruption during the day (though in the vicinity of construction sites, speed limits will apply), but will have to be closed at night (from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.). During this period, traffic will be diverted via the cantonal road on the right-hand side of Lake Brienz.

How much extra travel time has to be anticipated?

The necessity to impose speed limits (60 km/h) in the vicinity of construction sites on the stretch between Interlaken-Ost and Brienz will probably increase travel time by approximately 2 minutes. When this stretch has to be closed at night and traffic has to be diverted via the cantonal road, travel time between Interlaken and Brienz will be increased by around 15 to 20 minutes. On the other stretches (Leissigen and Simmenfluh tunnels), only very minor increases in travel time have to be anticipated.

Why do stretches have to be closed at night?

In Switzerland, motorway maintenance and renovation work is planned so that its impacts on road users can be kept to a minimum. The goal is that at least one lane in each direction is kept open. But the fact that there are lengthy stretches on the A8 that only comprise two lanes means that closures are unavoidable. On the stretch between Interlaken-Ost and Brienz, closures will only be made at night, when the traffic volume is at its lowest. This solution (open during the day, closed at night) means that more than 90 percent of all road users will be able to use their accustomed route and only experience minor delays. Only a very low number of road users (less than 10 percent of daily traffic) travel on this stretch during the period when the road will be closed (from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.).

Why are the tunnels on the A8 undergoing expansion?

The tunnels are not actually undergoing expansion. They are in fact being upgraded to bring them into line with the latest safety standards. Switzerland’s safety requirements were made more stringent following a series of major fires in motorway tunnels (Gotthard, Tauern, Mont Blanc). The new requirements stipulate that escape routes have to be available every 300 to 500 metres. And in some tunnels the ventilation system needs to be upgraded.

Why is it that the entire stretch from Interlaken-Ost to Brienz is to be designated a construction site when work is only to be carried out on certain segments?

In Switzerland, motorway maintenance is carried out on defined stretches in accordance with a long-term plan. The basis for this is the “Motorway Maintenance Planning” project, according to which individual construction sites are incorporated into defined maintenance stretches with a maximum length of 15 kilometres. The advantage of this method is that frequently recurring traffic restrictions can be avoided. The plan stipulates that no additional traffic restrictions resulting from construction sites are permitted within 30 kilometres of an existing road work site. The defined objective of the maintenance plan is to ensure that traffic on a stretch that has undergone maintenance or renovation will not be restricted again due to construction work for a period of 15 years after the work has been completed.

Why does maintenance work take so long?

The work to be carried out on the A8 involves not only basic maintenance tasks, but also the total renovation of the road infrastructure. Some components are displaying clear signs of damage and will also need to be adapted so that they comply with the latest technical and safety standards. The stretch between Interlaken-Ost and Brienz passes through fairly steep terrain, and this is why numerous engineering structures (bridges, retaining walls, support structures, etc.) now need to be renovated. But the renovation of the tunnel infrastructure will also be a complex and time-consuming task. This applies especially to the ventilation system in the Giessbach tunnel.

Is motorway maintenance in Switzerland carried out as a result of a desire for perfection?

Motorway maintenance is not a luxury, it is an essential road safety factor. The requirements placed on the quality of road surfaces and infrastructure are very high in Switzerland, especially in view of the major temperature fluctuations they have to withstand here. Road surfaces can heat up to around 70° C in mid-summer, and are exposed to temperatures of around -20° C during the winter. These fluctuations mean that the right type of construction material has to be used, which must be neither too hard nor too soft. Surveys have shown that the
majority of the population regard both the structural and the operational maintenance of the motorway network to be appropriate.

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