Five years after the Vogel tragedy, a daily nightmare on the Canal Grande

The situation is still on the verge of collapse: since 2013 new taxi licenses have been released and boat traffic has increased.

By Alberto Vitucci

VENEZIA. Five years after the tragedy the situation is still at high risk. On 17 August 2013 German criminologist Joachim Vogel died on the Canal Grande. It was an absurd death, in a place until then considered to be one of the safest in the world. Vogel was in a gondola with his family, under the Rialto Bridge. The chaotic traffic on that day produced an emergency situation. A taxi, a gondola and a vaporetto stopped in the middle of the Canal Grande. Another vaporetto was forced to suddenly move backwards before turning sideways. Behind it, the unfortunate professor was struck in the head by the hull. When the tragedy was announced, committees and citizens accused: “uncontrolled traffic is to blame”.

The Procura investigated, groups issued mea culpas, and the City promised to reduce the boat traffic in these areas.

But five years and three administrations later, nothing has changed. Today only boats belonging to residents are prohibited passage under the Rialto Bridge (until mid-day). In theory tourist rental motorboats are also prohibited until 3 PM. But the number of taxis has grown, as has that of the vaporetti with the introduction of new lines; likewise the routes of Alilaguna and the number of gondolas have increased. The City is studying a new Traffic Plan, which has not arrived. “We are working on a new organization of traffic, beginning with the hours”, they say at City Hall.

The situation, however, is on the verge of collapse. The other day, on the eve of Ferragosto, a Line 1 vaporetto had to reverse course. Gondolas and motorboats come out of the woodwork. The quantity of water traffic is much greater than it was in 2013. Since then new taxi licenses have been released, the number of tourists has grown exponentially, and with it the traffic on the water. Public transportation service has become tourist transportation service, without limits. The city cannot take any more. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro announces more controls. However he is cautious about any prohibitions regarding commercial groups. The gonololieri call for controls; “The existing rules are sufficient”, they say). They applaud the “Zero Waves” initiative, which has reduced motorboat waves a bit in the bacino of San Marco.

But in the rest of the lagoon and along the Canal Grande there is an emergency. Speed limits are not respected, there is a lack of respect for the city and for the ordinances that prohibit caravans and establish a minimum distance between motorboats. Likewise the priority that should be given to Actv boats is ignored. “Every day is worse” declares a driver. It was they who paid for Vogel’s death, the captains of vaporetti forced into the maneuvers, along with the gondolieri and a motorboat driver. Now the situation has become explosive. The critical locations are always the same, the train station and Rialto, but also Rio Novo, and the Canal Grande near Salute. Officers with telelasers to measure speed can sometimes be seen, but they have a limited effect. Meanwhile, the Canal Grande is blowing up.

Source: La Nuova Venezia, 17 August 2018

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