Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The TV cameras will be whirring away as a group of men shake hands and probably wipe away tears nearly two kilometres below ground, but the event this time is not trapped miners, it’s a celebration as the final bit of Switzerland’s Gotthard base rail tunnel is bored early Friday afternoon. The world’s longest rail tunnel, 57 km, will be pierced early in the afternoon 15 October, the culmination of 17 years of tunneling work.
Drillers from Sedrun in canton Graubuenden will meet those from Faido, Ticino, completing the drilling of 151.4 km in total (roads in both directions and galleries). The workers from Ticino will climb through the manhole once the final boring is done.
TSR will cover it live in French: 6.5 km long fiberglass cables had to be laid to make the live broadcasts possible.
The tunnel itself will not open until 2017, with construction and safety work inside the tunnel remaining a major project.
Once completed, the Gotthard tunnel will be a key part of the European rail system’s transalpine line, linking northern and southern Europe with high-speed trains.
The rail journey between Milan and Zurich will fall from 4 hours 10 minutes today to 2 hours 50 minutes once the Gotthard base tunnel opens, and another 10 minutes will be cut when two other base tunnels are added to the system later.
The total cost is estimated now at CHF23 billion, some CHF5b over the original estimates, mainly due to unforeseen problems encountered with the rock, whose precise nature could not be fully known in advance, says specialists at Alp Transit, the company that has done the tunneling. The tunnel boring machine alone cost CHF30 million: at 2,700 kg the 450 m long machine could drill through 40km a day under good conditions.
Eight workers lost their lives during the 17 years.
Background: GenevaLunch, June 2009