MOTOR vehicles going into Gibraltar will no longer have to wait for landing planes when its runway tunnel and new access road finally opens on the morning of March 31.

The tunnel opening is finally some good news for Gibraltar as it struggles to deal with the pangs of Brexit and pandemic after-shocks.

After 14 years in the making, Gibraltar’s government said the two-lane road in each direction to the frontier, airport, Eroski supermarket, Western Beach and the Four Corners military base will open at 00:01 on the last day of the month.

Built to British standards, it will see the roundabout and access route at Devil’s Tower Road come to life, having lain dormant for years during successive delays to the tunnel’s completion.

Pedestrians, cyclists and scooter-riders will be able to use a separate subway from Eastern Beach or cross the runway as before.

The tunnel control room will stop all queues forming inside the tunnel, closing down its Devil’s Tower Road entrance when the frontier queue is causing traffic jams.

It will also vary the speed limit inside it from 20-50 km/h, depending on traffic flow.

When there are frontier queues, controllers will free up some lanes to allow access to the airport and supermarket by the border.

The tunnel control room will monitor cameras and in case of an emergency will take over all radio frequencies inside cars to direct traffic.

It will use a PA system and the latest safety support systems to organise drivers and passengers to safe areas.

Legal wrangling

The runway tunnel, which is only 350 metres long in itself, took 14 years to complete.

This delay was a result of a legal fight against the developers to protect ‘tax-payers’ money’, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

The project lay on ice for five years after Gibraltar’s government took the Spanish contractor OHL to a UK court over the final specifications of the tunnel.

“The Gibraltar Government would not accept substandard work not in keeping with British standards,” Picardo said.

Gibraltar’s government won the case, forcing OHL to pay for the cost of building the project.

“This Government’s insistence that the tunnel be completed to the highest British standards means that the final product is fitted with tried and tested safety features that ensure it is fit for Gibraltar’s unique requirements,” he said.

“For the first time since 1941, the tunnel will enable free flow of vehicles and pedestrians across Gibraltar.

“It will put an end to traffic gridlock caused by the closure of the runway to allow flights to land and take off at the busy Gibraltar International Airport.”

But the Chief Minister warned excited tunnel users and pedestrians to keep their eyes peeled around the tunnel entrance and the frontier.

“Please exercise caution over the first few weeks, drive carefully and pay close attention to the new road signs and instructions,” he added.


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