BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Katya Adler
"The blockade has the feel of a local festival"
 real 28k

Friday, 23 June, 2000, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Austrians block trans-Alpine highway
Bikes on A13
Bikes replace HGVs on the usually busy Brenner highway
An environmental pressure group has blocked a key trans-Alpine motorway in Austria to protest against noise and exhaust fumes from more than 1.5 million goods vehicles passing along it each year.

The blockade of the A13 Brenner highway, which carries traffic between Germany and Italy, is being timed to cause the most disruption possible.

Lorries on the A13 in winter
Summer and winter the A13 takes thousands of lorries a day

Local people are angry that freight traffic has surged by 50% since 1993, when Austria signed a transit agreement before joining the European Union.

The blockade, organised by a group called Transitforum Tirol, is set to continue until Saturday afternoon.

The highway cuts through Austria's picturesque mountain province of Tyrol.

Toll charges

Austria has clashed with the EU over its refusal to reduce tolls for trucks using the highway. Brussels says the levies breach EU law and discriminate against foreign freight.

Austria and the EU had agreed that no more than 1.5 million lorries should use the highway per year. But 1999 saw about 1.7 million travelling by the Brenner route.

Alternative routes go through non-EU Switzerland, which has imposed weight limits on haulage vehicles.

The International Road-transport Union (IRU) has warned Austria that the blockade will breach international accords, but the Austrian government has defended the action.

Protesters walk along deserted A13 in Tyrol
Locals are angry about the increase in traffic noise and pollution
It blames the European Union for disregarding a series of measures designed to protect the quality of life in Tyrol.

Holiday weekend

The European Commission has welcomed steps Austria has taken to alleviate traffic congestion during the protest.

The blockade comes during the long Catholic holiday of Corpus Christi, with Bavarian tourists returning from Whitsun breaks and others setting off for summer holidays.

Smaller trucks and private vehicles are being diverted onto narrow national highways, while extra freight trains are being laid on to take heavier traffic.

Germany warned Austria of its obligations to ensure the free movement of goods.

Austrian policeman directs traffic off the A13
Police have tried to keep traffic moving on other routes
"Traffic must be allowed to pass. If an action is supported by the Austrian authorities, it breaks laws in force," the German transport minister, Reinhard Klimmt, said.

The Brenner highway has been blocked by Transitforum Tirol twice before, in 1995 and 1998.

Organisers say they hope 5,000 people will join the protest and are staging events such as concerts, a round-table debate and a Roman Catholic mass.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories