Note: the Mont Blanc Tunnel is closed in 2023 due to maintenance works in all nights (from 10pm to 6 am) on January 9-10-11-12-16-17-18-19-23-24-25-26 and February 7-8-9 and March 13-14-15-16. Additionnally, on Feb 6 from 7pm to 6 am)
For hundreds of years, the Mont Blanc was a barrier for trading and travel between the Chamonix Valley and the Aosta Valley. The trade routes were always well traveled and tolls were levied on both sides by the various lords of the castles in the valleys.
The route was dangerous. Ambushes of bandits, weather, animals. Of course, as time passed and the crowds increased, the route became safer, but the influences of the season persisted: the mountain passes were unusable for most of the year and unreliable the rest of the year. Moreover, the route was very long, because you had to go to Italy either via the Col du Bonhomme and the Col de la Seigne, or over the Col de la Forclaz and the Great St. Bernard Pass.
At the same time, the economic necessity for the dangerous journeys remained. In the 1950s, it was decided that this had to change. In 1959, the construction of the Mont Blanc tunnel began, which was finally opened on July 16, 1965. Actual traffic started to flow from July 19, 1965.
From the very first moment, the 11.6 kilometer long and 8.60 meter wide tunnel was a success. The connection between Chamonix (F) and Courmayeur (I) was protected from the elements and could be used all year round. The entrance to the tunnel is on both sides at an altitude of approximately 1300m, which means that even in winter there is little risk of persistent and troubling snow cover.
The traffic flow swelled to 1,800,000 vehicles a year or 5,000 a day, until disaster struck: March 24, 1999. A terrible accident happened in the tunnel, in which a Belgian truck loaded with flour and butter caught fire. The strong fans that normally blow the fumes out now act as fans to fan the fire and create an inferno. 41 people lost their lives in the tunnel.
The investigations into the fire revealed a number of things that all contributed to the scale of the disaster. There was a lack of communication between the Italian and French sides and there was only one tunnel tube. The latter is still the case, but nowadays the communication problems have disappeared: a separate company has been set up that is solely responsible for the tunnel, so that everyone speaks the same language and has followed the same safety courses. There is also stricter supervision of the maximum number of vehicles that may be in the tunnel at the same time and there are cameras to monitor the distance from the vehicle in front and the maximum speed.
Cost of Mont Blanc tunnel Chamonix – Courmayeur (price level: 2023)
- Motor cycle, single trip: 34.10 EUR, round-trip 42.80 EUR
- Car (max. 2m tall, with small trailer), single trip: 51.50 EUR, round-trip 64.20 EUR
- Car with caravan, (small) campers/RV, vans, single trip: 68.10 EUR, round-trip 85.60 EUR
Cost of Mont Blanc tunnel Courmayeur – Chamonix (price level: 2023)
- Motor cycle, single trip: 34.60 EUR, round-trip 43.50 EUR
- Car (max. 2m tall, with small trailer), single trip: 52.30 EUR, round-trip 65.30 EUR
- Car with caravan, (small) campers/RV, vans, single trip: 69.30 EUR, round-trip 87.10 EUR
- More information about safety and costs: Official website tunnel du Mont Blanc
Should you be wondering why there is a difference in price between the 2 directions? Well – that’s simple! The Italian VAT-percentage is higher than the French VAT, which causes the trip from Courmayeur to Chamonix to be 2% more expensive than the other way around.
Motorhomes (or campers, RV’s) are divided into 3 classes: lower than 3 meters, higher than 3 meters with a total of 2 axles, or motorhomes with a double rear axle. The above rates are valid for the motorhome class up to a maximum height of 3 meters and with 2 axles: 1 at the front and one at the rear. The rates for motorhomes higher than 3 meters, but still with 2 axles, are almost 3 times higher than the normal rate: EUR 177 one way. The even larger motorhomes with double rear axles pay more than 5 times as much: EUR 355.70 for a single journey.
Why is the Mont Blanc tunnel so expensive
The costs to cross the Mont Blanc tunnel are high, or easily perceived as such. There are fundamentally 2 reasons for this: first of all the costs of building (and the depreciation as a result) and maintenance of the tunnel is high.
But perhaps the most important reason is the lack of options. It’s a major crossing into Italy from France (the others being the Mont Cenis tunnel and further south towards Ventemiglia). There are some options over mountain passes, such as the Petit Saint Bernard and the Grand Saint Bernard. Both necessitate however a large detour.
For the Petit Saint Bernard, one needs to first cross the Cormet de Roselend and then the Petit Saint Bernard – and both are closed in winter. The Cormet de Roselend is even impossible to cross with a truck and not recommended for towing vehicles. It’s easily a 2 hour detour.
Towards the north, one must first cross the Col des Montets and the Col de la Forclaz. Both are open in winter, but it’s a detour. After the Forclaz, you descend to Martigny and then ascend to the Grand Saint Bernard – a mountain pass which too is closed in the winter (from mid-October to early May, usually and depending on weather conditions).
The alternative is the Gd. Saint Bernard Tunnel – which is equally expensive as the Mont Blanc tunnel but with the additional disadvantage of having a high-altitude entrance (and exit) and thus might necessitate snow chains. An issue which doesn’t play a role at the Mont Blanc Tunnel, as the entrance is at a considerably lower altitude.
It’s these “opportunity costs” of making long detours that makes it possible for the tunnel-operator to charge a large sum of money. But it’s worth it, if you don’t have the opportunity to take the detours (such as in winter).
Important rules in the Mont Blanc tunnel
1- Make sure your car is in good technical condition and that there is sufficient fuel available. (Report LPG to the operator, costs nothing extra)
2- Listen to the radio
3- Keep to the speed limit (min. 50km/h, max. 70km/h)
4- Keep distance: at least 150 meters, or the distance between 2 blue lamps in the tunnel
5- Keep 100m away from stationary traffic
6- Read carefully the matrix signs above the road
7- When the barrier is down or the traffic light is red: stop!
8- In case of emergency: park the car in a breakdown port, engine off. If this is not possible: as close to the wall as possible. Always turn on your emergency lights and go to the nearest SOS phone to notify the emergency room.
9- In case of fire: stop, engine off, hazard lights on. Find a (green) fire bunker as soon as possible. Try to help other people and put out starting fires. Extinguishing equipment is placed every 100m near the SOS telephones.