Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gotthard Base Tunnel: Alpine tunnel connecting Uri to Ticino opens in 2016

Documentary about the massive transalpine-cisalpine tunnel project.

Gotthard Base Tunnel (Wikipedia)

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is a railway tunnel in the heart of the Swiss Alps expected to open in 2016. 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, it is the world's longest rail tunnel, surpassing the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

Its main purpose is to increase total transport capacity across the Alps, especially for freight, notably between Germany and Italy, and more particularly to shift freight volumes from road to rail to reduce environmental damage caused by ever-increasing numbers of heavy lorries. A secondary benefit will be to cut the journey time for passenger trains from Zürich to Milan by about an hour and from Zürich to Lugano to 1-hour 40 minutes.

The project consists of two single-track tunnels. 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.

After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the AlpTransit project in a 1992 referendum, tunnel construction began in 1996. Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV, and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011. AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd. was planned to hand over the tunnel to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) in operating condition in December 2016; 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. Total cost of the project is 9.8 billion Swiss francs, or US$10.3 billion.

The two portals are near the villages of Erstfeld, Uri, and Bodio, Ticino. Nearby are two other St. Gotthard Tunnels: the 1881 Gotthard Rail Tunnel and the 1980 Gotthard Road Tunnel.

When completed, the Gotthard Base Tunnel will have been one of the longest tunnel construction projects in the world: 20 years of constant construction and preparation.


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