“scandalous”, “ugly”, motorists exasperated by “unprecedented” traffic jams

During this long Ascension weekend, the Fréjus tunnel which connects France to Italy is experiencing record crowds. Since midday on Wednesday, May 8, thousands of motorists have been stuck in monster traffic jams in Savoie on the A43 motorway which provides access to the tunnel on the French side.

Very bad surprise for motorists who wanted to go to Italy for this long Ascension weekend. The A43 motorway is in a blocked situation “on an unprecedented scale” at the Fréjus tunnel (Savoie), according to the French Fréjus road tunnel company (SFTRF), Wednesday May 8.

“Traffic is saturated in the Saint-Julien-Mont-Denis sectorexplains Nicolas Miché, on-call director at the SFTRF. There are two blocked areas: the first at the access ramp to the Fréjus tunnel, with traffic jams for 4 to 5 kilometers. And a second upstream of the toll at the Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne barrier, with traffic jams for 7 kilometers. We have to count on at least five more hours of traffic jams. And the situation won’t get better until the end of the afternoon.”

For “avoid at all costs that cars get stuck in the tunnel”the tunnel operator must organize the passage of cars slowly at the Saint-Michel toll barrier and close access when the maximum number of vehicles is reached. “We have no room for maneuver. We must respect safety distances in the tunnel,” assures Nicolas Miché.

We’ve never seen that. The Ascension Bridge is traditionally very busy but never to this extent. Usually we have to regulate traffic but never for several hours like today.

Nicolas Miché, on-call director of the French Society of the Fréjus Road Tunnel

It is this traffic regulation which is at the origin of the monster traffic jams, as described to France 3 Alpes by Elodie, a motorist who left La Tronche near Grenoble at 9 a.m. to go to the Cinque-Terres in Italy: “We found ourselves stuck around 10 a.m., a little before the Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne toll. For 3.5 hours we moved in fits and starts: every thirty minutes or so the toll gate rose for 2-3 minutes to let a few cars pass and then closed again.”

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Some motorists spent more than seven hours in traffic jams.

©DR

After passing the toll, traffic is smoother for around twenty minutes before being stopped again at the tunnel access ramp: “It took us two hours to cover the last 3-4 kilometers before the Fréjus tunnel. In total, it took us seven hours to get through this tunnel”explains Elodie.

In traffic jams, some motorists are patient, like Romain, who left Meylan on the outskirts of Grenoble at 11:30 a.m. He found himself stuck at the toll booth around 1 p.m. “All around us there are children rollerblading, children coloring. People are fed up.” At 4:30 p.m., he had not yet reached the Fréjus tunnel.

Exasperated by the prolonged wait to access the tunnel, many motorists expressed their anger on X (formerly Twitter). “We have young children in the car! Scandalous that Bison futé did not announce anything yesterday regarding tunnel traffic! We are still 1000m from the toll booth since 10:00 a.m.”one of them got angry at 2:30 p.m.

Reached by telephone shortly after 5:30 p.m., a motorist struggled to contain his anger: “It’s a grotesque situation. We left Grenoble at 8 a.m., we’re still there!” This father and his children had to go to Genoa (Italy) to spend a few days of vacation: “We already have a completely lost day, a nautical activity which will not be reimbursed, he blurted out disgustedly.

17€ for an open toll drop by dropper! And another tunnel for €50 after 6 hours of waiting! It’s supposed to be faster and more economical! Scandalous!

We were at terminal 175.2 at 10 a.m. It took us 3.5 hours to get to the toll booth. We drove 20 minutes after the toll. We are at a standstill again,” lamented another driver.

“You’re talking about a 6-hour wait at 2:40 p.m., I covered 600 meters in 2 hours and I’m 8 km from the Saint Michel de Maurienne barrier. I don’t see how this can be unblocked!”added a user of the A43. https://twitter.com/Thedavinjah/status/1788188088977494346And the speaker who dares to say that the toll opens / closes every 15 minutes, when it opens for 2 minutes and then closes between 30 and 45 minutes. Dishonest”lamented another.https://twitter.com/z3nophile/status/1788217893676896300

At 7 p.m. this Wednesday, the traffic jam at the Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne toll began to ease, with around 4 kilometers of traffic jams. The SFTRF is counting on a reduction in traffic in the coming hours, which would make traffic flow more smoothly: “Since the end of the afternoon, we have seen a reduction in traffic on the A43 motorway but the traffic jams will still last several hours”warns Nicolas Miché who hopes for a return to normal “at best around 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.” this Wednesday evening.

But the operator of the Fréjus tunnel fears new very significant traffic jams at the end of this Ascension weekend, in the other direction, on the Italian side: “It will certainly be even worse on Sunday. We expect a dark day for returns from Italy. Motorists are advised to postpone their return to Saturday 11 or Monday 13 if they can, or to take one of the two alternative routes, via the Mont-Blanc tunnel or Ventimiglia.”

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