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Gotthard Base Tunnel

Gotthard Base Tunnel
The Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Zimmerberg Base Tunnel are the northern part of the Gotthard axis of the Alptransit project
(yellow: major tunnels, red: existing main tracks, numbers: year of completion).
Line AlpTransit
Location Switzerland
(Uri, Graubünden and Ticino)
Status Excavation and rail installation complete; wiring and testing in progress[1]
Start Erstfeld (Uri)
End Bodio (Ticino)
Work begun 1996
Opened 5 June 2016[2] (planned)
Line length 57.104 km (35.483 mi) (east tunnel)
57.017 km (35.429 mi) (west tunnel)[3]
No. of tracks 2 single track tunnels[3]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge)
Operating speed up to 250 km/h (160 mph)
Highest elevation 549 m (1,801 ft)[3]
Lowest elevation 312 m (1,024 ft) (at Bodio)[3]

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is a railway tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland expected to open on 2 June 2016.[4][5] With a route length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages,[3] it will be the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnel[6] and the first flat low-level route through the Alps.[7]

The project consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden). It is part of the AlpTransit project, also known as the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA), which includes the Lötschberg Base Tunnel between the cantons of Bern and Valais and the under construction Ceneri Base Tunnel (scheduled to open late 2019) to the south. It bypasses the Gotthardbahn, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, which is now operating at capacity, and establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains.[8] It is the third tunnel connecting the cantons of Uri and Ticino after the Gotthard Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel.

The main purpose of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is to increase total transport capacity across the Alps, especially for freight, notably on the Rotterdam-Basel-Genoa corridor, and more particularly to shift freight volumes from road to rail to reduce fatal crashes and environmental damage caused by ever-increasing numbers of heavy lorries. Another benefit will be to provide a faster connection between the canton of Ticino and the rest of Switzerland, as well as between northern and southern Europe, cutting the Zürich-Lugano-Milan journey time for passenger trains by about an hour and from Lucerne to Bellinzona to 1 hour 25 minutes.[9]

After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the AlpTransit project in a 1992 referendum, tunnel construction began in 1996.[10] Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV,[11] and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011. AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd. plan to hand over the tunnel to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) in operating condition in December 2016;[4] this date was modified to 5 June 2016 on 4 February 2014 with the commencement of an 850-day opening countdown calendar on the AlpTransit homepage.[2] Total cost of the project is 9.8 billion Swiss francs, or US$10.3 billion.[11]

On 31 October 2014, the railway track installation was completed. A gold sleeper—marking the very last part of the track—was installed during the event to mark this milestone of progress.[1][12]


  • Background 1
  • Construction 2
  • Allocation of work 3
  • Specifications 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Intermodal train on the current Gotthardbahn in the Biaschina Gorge; truck on viaduct heading towards Gotthard road tunnel.

The route over the [14]

To provide a faster and flatter passage through the Swiss Alps, the GBT cuts through the Gotthard Massif some 600 m (2,000 ft) below the older tunnel. On the current track, the Gotthardbahn, only trains up to 1,300 t (1,400 short tons; 1,300 long tons)[15] when using two locomotives or up to 1,500 t (1,700 short tons; 1,500 long tons) with an additional bank engine at the end of the train are able to pass through the narrow mountain valleys and through spiral tunnels climbing up to the portals of the old tunnel at a height of 1,100 m (3,609 ft) above sea level.

When the tunnel is completed, standard freight trains of up to 3,600 t (4,000 short tons; 3,500 long tons) will be able to pass this natural barrier. Because of ever-increasing international truck traffic, the Swiss voted in February 1994 for a shift in transportation policy (Traffic Transfer Act, enacted in October 1999).

The goal of both the laws (and the goal of the GBT, which is one of the means by which the law will achieve its objective) is to transport trucks, trailers and freight containers between southern Germany and northern Italy by rail to relieve the overused roads (intermodal freight transport and so-called rolling highway where the entire truck is transported) and to meet the political requirement of shifting as much tonnage as possible from truck transport to train transport, as required by the 'Alpine Protection Act' of 1994.[16]

Passenger trains will be able to travel up to 250 km/h (155.3 mph) through the GBT, reducing travel times for trans-Alpine train journeys by 50 minutes, and by one hour once the adjacent Zimmerberg and Ceneri Base Tunnels are completed.

In 2016, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the world. It is the third Swiss tunnel to bear this title, after the Gotthard Tunnel (15 km, 1882) and the Simplon Tunnel (19.8 km, 1905).[17]


Gotthard Base Tunnel diagram, the new railway link through the Alps NRLA (green: excavation direction).

AlpTransit Gotthard AG is responsible for construction. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS).

To cut construction time in half, four access tunnels were built so that construction could start at four (a fifth was added later) different sites simultaneously (Erstfeld, Amsteg, Sedrun, Faido and Bodio).

The two tunnels are joined approximately every 325 m (1,066 ft) by connecting galleries.

Trains can swap tunnels in the two multifunction stations (MFS) at Sedrun and Faido.

These stations will house ventilation equipment and technical infrastructure and will serve as emergency stops and evacuation routes upon tunnel completion.[8]

Construction site near Bodio
Y junction at multifunction station Faido
The TBM from Bodio arrived at MFS Faido in September 2006
Scale model of the TBM S-210
The 1st TBM from Bodio broke through on 6 September 2006, MFS Faido
In the eastern bore near Amsteg.

Access to the Sedrun station site is by a level access tunnel 1 km (0.6 mi) long from the valley floor near Sedrun, at the end of which two vertical shafts lead 800 m (2,625 ft) down to the base tunnel level. A proposal to construct a functioning railway station, called Porta Alpina, at this site was evaluated, but the project was put on hold in 2007 and definitively shelved by the federal authorities in 2012 as uneconomical.[18]

The final breakthrough in the east tube occurred on Friday, 15 October 2010 at 14:17 +02:00.[19] The final breakthrough in the west tube occurred on Wednesday 23 March 2011 at 12:20.[20][21]

On 16 December 2013, the operational test phase started on a 13 kilometer stretch in the southern section of the west tube between Faido and Bodio. Its purpose is to test the infrastructure and any ancillary systems.[22]

Allocation of work

The contracts were awarded in sections:

  • Erstfeld (the 7.7 km (4.8 mi) section from Erstfeld to Amsteg), with two tunnel boring machines (TBM) boring the two tubes. The break-through of the east tube between Erstfeld and Amsteg took place 15 June 2009. The portal area was surface-mined, and drilling and blasting for the two branches is complete.
  • Amsteg (the 11.3 km (7.0 mi) section from Amsteg to north of Sedrun), ARGE AGN (Strabag and Züblin Murer) received the contract for work in this sector.[23] On 9 December 2009, the Amsteg section was officially delivered to the owner for fitting-out.[24] Civil engineering, construction, concrete and lining work are complete.[25]
  • Sedrun (the 8.6 km (5.3 mi) East tube and 8.7 km (5.4 mi) West tube in the section immediately north and south of Sedrun), along with work performed by Transco (Bilfinger SE, Implenia, Frutiger and Impresa Pizzarotti).[26][27] The final breakthrough in the west tube occurred in March 2011.[28] Civil engineering construction, concreting and lining work are complete on Sedrun North. The northbound tubes from Amsteg to the Sedrun multifunction station (north) were handed over to the railway systems contractor Transtec Gotthard on 15 September 2011, the date specified in the construction schedule.[29]
  • Faido (13.4 km (8.3 mi) East tube and 13.6 km (8.5 mi) West tube in the section from south of Sedrun to Faido), with Consorzio TAT (Alpine Mayreder Bau, CSC Impresa costruzioni, Hochtief and Implenia and Impregilo) is operational.[30]
  • Bodio (a 15.9 km (9.9 mi) East tube and 15.6 km (9.7 mi) West tube in the section from Faido to Bodio), with work performed by Consorzio TAT (Alpine Mayreder Bau, CSC Impresa costruzioni, Hochtief, Implenia and Impregilo).[30] Civil engineering construction, concrete and lining works are complete.[25]


  • Length:[3]
    • Western tunnel: 56.978 km (35.404 mi)
    • Eastern tunnel: 57.091 km (35.475 mi)
  • Total length of all tunnels and shafts: 151.84 km (94.35 mi)
  • Diameter of each of the single-track tubes: 8.83–9.58 m (29.0–31.4 ft)
  • Distance between cross passage tunnels: ca. 325 m (1,066 ft)
  • Maximum overburden: 2,500 m (8,200 ft) (at Piz Vatgira)
  • Start of construction: 1993 (sounding drills), 1996 (preparations), 2003 (mechanical excavation)
  • End of construction: 2016
  • Commissioning: May 2016
  • Total cost: CHF 9.74 billion[31] (as of October 2010) (US$10.1 billion)
  • Trains per day: 200–250
  • Electrification System: 15 kV, 16.7 Hz
  • Safety rules: The safety requirements on the rolling stock will be similar to other long Swiss tunnels, like possibility to override the emergency brake. This is in contrast to the Channel Tunnel which has several unique safety rules requiring custom made trains.
  • Amount of excavated rock: 28,200,000 t (31,100,000 short tons; 27,800,000 long tons),[32] (13,300,000 m3 or 17,400,000 cu yd, the equivalent of 5 Giza pyramids)
  • Number of tunnel boring machines (TBM): Four Herrenknecht Gripper TBMs — Machine numbers S-210 and S-211 operated northbound from Bodio to Faido and Sedrun and were nicknamed Sissi and Heidi respectively; Machines S-229 and S-230 operated southbound from Erstfeld to Sedrun and were known as Gabi I and Gabi II.
    • Total length: 440 m (1,440 ft) (including back-up equipment)
    • Total weight: 3,000 t (3,300 short tons; 3,000 long tons)
    • Power: 5 MW
    • Max. excavation daily: 25–30 m (82–98 ft) (in excellent rock conditions)
    • Total excavation length by TBM: about 45 km (28 mi) (for each tube)
    • Manufacturer: Herrenknecht, Schwanau, Germany
  • As of October 2010 eight workers have died during construction.[33]
  • 2004–2011 tunnel excavation:[34][35]
Year   Month   Total excavated
kilometres miles percent
2004 July 52.34 32.52 34.1
2005 June 74.59 46.35 48.6
2006 June 94.10 58.47 61.3
2007 June 103.67 64.42 67.6
2008 March 108.02 67.12 70.4
April 109.00 67.73 71.0
July 113.20 70.34 73.8
August 115.20 71.58 75.1
October 118.40 73.57 77.2
2009 January 124.00 77.05 81.6
March 127.30 79.10 83.9
May 131.00 81.40 86.3
June 133.00 82.64 87.6
July 134.80 83.76 87.9
August 136.60 84.88 90.0
September 137.30 85.31 90.4
October 138.60 86.12 91.3
November 140.00 86.99 92.2
December 141.38 87.85 93.0
2010 1 January 141.82 88.12 93.4
1 February 142.48 88.53 93.8
1 March 143.80 89.35 94.7
1 April 144.80 89.97 95.4
1 May 145.40 90.35 95.8
1 June 146.10 90.78 96.2
1 July 146.60 91.09 96.6
1 August 147.33 91.55 97.0
1 September 147.98 91.95 97.5
1 October 149.10 92.65 98.2
1 November 149.90 93.14 98.7
1 December 150.40 93.45 99.0
2011 1 January 150.49 93.51 99.1
1 February 150.77 93.68 99.3
1 March 151.26 93.99 99.6
1 April 151.70 94.26 99.91
1 May 151.75 94.29 99.94
1 June 151.82 94.34 99.99
1 July 151.82 94.34 100[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b "848 days until opening". Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Project data – raw construction Gotthard Base Tunnel" (PDF). Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Gotthard Base Tunnel to be operational from 2016". 22 August 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Engineers meet challenge of Gotthard tunnel". Sep 22, 2014. Retrieved Oct 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Gotthard- und CeneriBasistunnel: die neue Gotthard-Bahn nimmt Gestalt an" (PDF). Geomatik Schweiz. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Yücel Erdem, Tülin Solak, Underground Space Use. Analysis of the Past and Lessons for the Future, CRC Press, 2005 (p. 485)
  8. ^ a b Malins, Richard (December 2010). "Crossing the Alps".  Subscription required
  9. ^ Monnat, Lucie (11 December 2014). "Le tunnel de base du Gothard révolutionnera le rail dans deux ans".  
  10. ^ "Chronology of a Project of the Century: Milestones in the Construction History up to 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Swiss create world's longest tunnel". BBC News. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Cendrowicz, Leo (20 October 2010). "Switzerland Celebrates World's Longest Rail Tunnel".  
  14. ^ Clementi, Andrea (23 October 2011). "Authorities accused of Gotthard tunnel vision". swissinfo. Retrieved 2013-04-11. 
  15. ^ "SBB-CFF-FFS Re 420 locomotive". 23 August 2010. Retrieved 2013-04-11. in German
  16. ^ Prince, Martin F. (1 May 2000). "The Alpine Convention: A Model for Other Mountain Regions?". Mountain Research and Development 20 (2) ( 
  17. ^ Bernard Wuthrich, "Le Romand du Gothard", Le Temps, Monday 1 June 2015, page 20.
  18. ^ "Bundesrat bestätigt vorläufigen Verzicht auf die Porta Alpina". Press release, Swiss federal authorities. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Zirulnick, Ariel (15 October 2010). "Swiss tunnel: Workers drill through last few feet of rock, creating world's longest tunnel".  
  20. ^ Bedding, James (19 February 2013). "Switzerland's Gotthard Base train tunnel is redefining Europe".  
  21. ^ a b "Gotthard Base Tunnel: Driving complete". 23 March 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  22. ^ "Test trains running on Gotthard Base Tunnel". Global Rail News. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "Projektbeschrieb" (in German). AGN Strabag. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  24. ^ "Structurally complete tunnels of the Amsteg section handed over". 10 December 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  25. ^ a b "Gotthard approaches final breakthrough, Ceneri starts main drive". 31 March 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "Transco Sedrun" (in German). Transco. Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  27. ^ Booth, Martina (29 April 2010). "Gotthard: A titanic tunnel". New Civil Engineer. EMAP Publishing Limited. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  28. ^ "Final breakthrough of the longest railway tunnel in the world". 15 October 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Installation of the railway systems in the north has begun". 2 September 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  30. ^ a b "St. Barbara Celebration 2012" (in German). Consorzio TAT. Retrieved 2013-04-11. 
  31. ^ "Switzerland has its record-breaking tunnel". 15 October 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "Experience in Spoil Management on Conclusion of Excavations for the Gottard Base Tunnel" (PDF). 2 March 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Seidler, Christoph (14 October 2010). "Miracle Under the Alps".  
  34. ^ "Status of the work". 1 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  35. ^ "Overview Gotthard Base Tunnel". 1 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Alptransit Gotthard AG
  • Overall project writeup by SpiegelOnline, plus a proposed tourist elevator (December 2006)
  • (French) TSR "Gotthard: From Dream to Nightmare" "Temps Present", 24 May 2007
  • (German) AGN Erstfeld Amsteg Constructors Web Site (many photos and designs)
  • (German)/(Italian) Faido Bodio Constructors Web Site (many photos and designs)
  • Herrenknecht GBT project site (many photos and designs)
  • Big Bigger Biggest YouTube documentary
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