Gotthard base tunnel: Final breakthrough of the longest railway tunnel in the world

Medienmitteilung, 15.10.2010

World record on the Gotthard: The longest railway tunnel in the world has become a reality. On 15 October 2010 in the east tunnel, 30 km from the north portal and 27 km from the south portal, the final breakthrough of the Gotthard took place. At about 14:30, the tunnel boring machine, drilling from Faido, broke through the last metre of rock on the route to Sedrun.

The tunnel breakthrough was highly accurate. At 8 cm horizontally and 1 cm vertically, the deviation was very small. In his speech, Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger expressed pleasure, but was also moved by this important milestone on the Gotthard: “This breakthrough is a symbol of what policy can do, when we make it together,” he said. The new base tunnel will make Swiss – and also European – transport policy more sustainable. Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer of AlpTransit Gotthard AG, singled out the numerous miners in his thanks. “Through their years of tireless commitment, they have made this world record possible. The miners are the heroes of today’s celebrations.”  

Guests and miners are very happy
At the breakthrough point deep inside the mountain, a little over 6 km south of Sedrun, about 200 people, including Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger and other guests of honour, witnessed the breakthrough by the tunnel boring machine. About 3500 miners and others involved in the project, including current and former engineers, planners, geologists and surveyors, followed the breakthrough on big screens at various venues: the Sedrun workshop, the Faido multifunction station, the north portal in Erstfeld, and the KKL in Lucerne. Swiss TV broadcast the event live throughout Switzerland and internationally 

Importance for transport policy
The 57 km Gotthard base tunnel traverses the Alps, connecting the north portal in Erstfeld (Canton Uri) with the south portal in Bodio (Canton Ticino). With a rock overburden of up to 2500 m, the Gotthard base tunnel is also the most deeply set rail tunnel in the world. Together with the 15.4 km Ceneri base tunnel, the Gotthard base tunnel will provide a level track through the Alps. The base tunnel through the Gotthard is the core of the new rail connection. It is planned to become operational by the end of 2017. This will markedly improve passenger and freight transport at the heart of Europe: it will favour the shift of north-south freight traffic from road to rail, and shorten the journey time from Zurich to Milan from 3 hours 40 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes. With the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) on the Gotthard and the Lötschberg, Switzerland is contributing significantly to bring the people of Europe together – something the EU acknowledges. 

Building the Gotthard base tunnel
The Gotthard base tunnel consists of two parallel single-track tubes, which are connected every 325 m by 40 m galleries. Overall, the tunnel system of the Gotthard base tunnel, including all tubes, shafts and galleries, measures 151.8 km. One and two thirds of the way along, at Faido and Sedrun, there are multifunction stations, which serve as emergency stopping points and places to change track. The Gotthard base tunnel was built simultaneously in five sections: Erstfeld, Amsteg, Sedrun, Bodio and Pollegio. The first works were carried out back in 1993, with the Piora exploratory boring, and from 1996 to 1998 with the blasting of the access shafts in Sedrun, Faido and Amsteg. Since 2001, the main lots have been constructed. The final breakthrough in the west tube is planned to take place in April 2011.

Next steps in the Gotthard base tunnel
The final breakthrough does not end work in the Gotthard base tunnel. Before timetabled operations can commence, probably in December 2017, the interior work on the tunnel must be done. The plan is to have all the tubes and shafts lined and the concreting finished by 2014. Shell construction specialists will equip the tunnel with mechanical and electromechanical installations such as doors, gates, and ventilation and other technical systems. These will ensure that the tunnel can be operated and maintained safely. In parallel to the last shell construction and installation, railway infrastructure will be fitted. This work started back in May 2010 at the south portal of the Gotthard base tunnel, in the Faido-Bodio-West section. The railway equipment comprises the track itself, the overhead line, power supply, cables, telecommunications and radio installations, train control and automation systems, and signalling technology.

AlpTransit Gotthard AG
AlpTransit Gotthard AG, on behalf of the Swiss Confederation, is the owner of the new Gotthard rail link, with the base tunnels through the Gotthard and the Ceneri. Founded in 1998, this subsidiary of the SBB currently employs about 140 people at its headquarters in Lucerne and in the field offices at Altdorf, Sedrun, Faido and Bellinzona.

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