When the Wheels Start Turning, the Pulse Starts Racing
The world’s longest rail tunnel, the 35.5-mile (57.1-kilometer) Gotthard Base Tunnel, opened at the beginning of June.
Seventeen years after the first blast in the main shaft, the ceremony celebrating the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel was held on June 1, 2016. It is the cornerstone of the European Rhine-Alpine Corridor for freight transportation and is part of Switzerland’s New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA).
This once-in-a-century construction project represents a substantial contribution by Switzerland to European transportation infrastructure and symbolizes Swiss values such as innovation, precision, and reliability. The official opening event took place on both sides of the tunnel, near the two portals at Erstfeld/Rynächt and Pollegio/Biasca. One thousand representatives of the Swiss people were the first to travel through the tunnel.
Did you know that the Swiss people approved the building of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in a popular vote?
In 1992, the Swiss approved the rail link through the Gotthard in a popular vote. The Gotthard Base Tunnel and the entire New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) are Swiss accomplishments legitimized through direct democracy. The Swiss people have very extensive democratic rights when it comes to decision making with regard to the country’s future. On average, Swiss voters cast their votes three to four times a year, expressing their views on a variety of issues at all political levels— local, state and federal. Thus the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the result of one of the major decisions made by Swiss citizens on Switzerland’s economic, financial and societal future.
Why Do Swiss People Love Shortcuts? They Like to Arrive on Time.The Gotthard Base Tunnel sustains the existing crucial transportation axis between Rotterdam and Genoa and will have an effect on all of Europe. Since the 1980s, Switzerland has pursued a sustainable transportation policy centered on shifting as much transalpine traffic as possible from road to rail. In December, when the new tunnel will become operational, it will be possible to transport larger quantities of goods through the Alps faster using fewer engines thanks to the tunnel’s advanced technical features and lack of inclines, permitting heavier and longer trains. That paves the way for the Swiss Alpine transportation policy favoring rail over road traffic. Rail passengers will also benefit: if, for instance, you would like to travel from Bern to Lugano in one day, the travel time between north and south will be reduced by about one hour thanks to the new rail link through the Gotthard, giving you more time to explore Switzerland’s beautiful sights. The shorter travel times make Switzerland’s regions and Germany and Italy more accessible. Over 20 million people in the area between southern Germany and northern Italy alone will benefit from the Gotthard Base Tunnel. The current rail tunnel will continue to be used for local connections and tourism.
Of course, the journey through the Gotthard was not always as comfortable and easy as it is today.
On the occasion of the official ceremony in June of this year, the tunnel was handed over to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB, CFF, FFS) to become operational. While the trains will not start running on schedule until December 2016, visitors were able to take a train ride on the weekend of the festivities on June 4 and 5, 2016.
The four sites of the festivities offered visitors many more attractions such as the Future Mobility exhibition. In addition, during the entire month of June, there will be big railway-station festivals at Aarau, Biel, Bern, Geneva, Winterthur, and Zurich.
So if you have a chance to visit Switzerland soon, take a train ride through the world’s longest tunnel!
Explore More About the Gotthard Tunnel
> You will find more interesting news and facts about how it was even possible to build such a huge tunnel in our next newsletter in September 2016. Sign up to receive our newsletter in your e-mail.