After nearly 2 decades of construction, the Gotthard Base Tunnel was officially opened on June 1, 2016 and exceeded all previous dimensions in terms of tunnel length, engineering and logistics. At 57 kilometres (35-mile) in length, the tunnel is currently the longest and the deepest (railway) one in the world which runs from Erstfeld in Canton Uri to Bodio in Canton Ticino. The tunnel forms part of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA), which is at present the largest construction project in Switzerland.
With the construction of this "project of the century", north/south railway transit traffic will be further improved, meaning that transit traffic can be moved off the roads and onto the railways. Moreover, travel time for public transport services will be significantly reduced – in conjunction with the Ceneri Base Tunnel which is currently being constructed – (the travel time from Zurich to Milan will be cut by one hour), thereby considerably increasing the attractiveness of railway travel compared with taking the car or plane. About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel @ up to 250 km/h.
Costing over 11 billion Euros, the tunnel is being financed by value-added and fuel taxes, road charges on heavy vehicles and state loans that are due to be repaid within a decade. About 2,600 workers have been involved in the construction of the tunnel.
BackgroundIn a popular vote on 27 September 1992, the Swiss electorate approved the Federal Decree on the Construction of the NRLA. This would pave the way for an Alpine transport policy favoring rail over road traffic. This not only significantly reduces the danger of fatal road crashes involving trucks, but also reduces the environmental damage caused by the ever-increasing amount of freight hauled by heavy trucks. The tunnel will 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 one hour.
Caption: In October 2015, teams of tunnel-boring crews that had separately started at the northern and southern ends of the planned GBT tunnels met in the middle. The cutting-face of the huge Herrenknecht AG tunnel-boring machine can be seen in the background.
The NRLA, involving the construction of three tunnels through the Alps, is well under way; the Lötschberg tunnel (34.6 km) was opened in 2007 whereas the Gotthard tunnel (57 km) was recently opened. The final tunnel in the trio is the Ceneri base tunnel (15.4 km), due to be opened in 2020.