Gotthard Base Tunnel

Gotthard Base Tunnel
20141120 gotthard-basistunnel02-wikipedia-hannes-ortlieb.jpg
Turnout at Faido multifunction station
Official nameGerman: Gotthard-Basistunnel
Italian: Galleria di base del San Gottardo
Romansh: Tunnel da basa dal Son Gottard
LineGotthard Line
LocationSwitzerland (Uri, Graubünden, and Ticino)
Coordinates46°36′00″N 8°45′54″E / 46°36′00″N 8°45′54″E / 46.600; 8.765) (standard gauge)
Electrified15 kV 16.7 Hz
Operating speedMaximum speed: 250 km/h (160 mph)
Operational speed: 200 km/h (124 mph) (Passenger);[5] 100 km/h (62 mph) (Freight)
Highest elevation549 m (1,801 ft)[4]
Lowest elevation312 m (1,024 ft) (south portal)[4]
Tunnel clearance5.20 m (17.1 ft) from top of rail to overhead conductor[4]
Grademax 4.055 ‰ (north), max 6.76 ‰ (south)[4]
Route map
Route map

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT; German: Gotthard-Basistunnel, Italian: Galleria di base del San Gottardo, Romansh: Tunnel da basa dal Son Gottard) is a railway tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland. It opened on 1 June 2016, and full service began on 11 December 2016.[6][7] With a route length of 57.09 km (35.5 mi),[4] it is the world's longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel[8][9][10][note 1] and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps.[11] It lies at the heart of the Gotthard axis and constitutes the third tunnel connecting the cantons of Uri and Ticino, after the Gotthard Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel.

The link consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden). It is part of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) project, which also includes the Ceneri Base Tunnel further south (scheduled to open late 2020) and the Lötschberg Base Tunnel on the other main north-south axis. It is referred to as a "base tunnel" since it bypasses most of the existing Gotthard railway line, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, which was operating at its capacity before the opening of the GBT. The new base tunnel establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains.[12]

The main purpose of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is to increase local transport capacity through the Alpine barrier, especially for freight, notably on the Rotterdam–Basel–Genoa corridor, and more specifically to shift freight volumes from trucks to freight trains. This both significantly reduces the danger of fatal road crashes involving trucks, and reduces the environmental damage caused by heavy trucks. The tunnel provides a faster connection between the canton of Ticino and the rest of Switzerland, as well as between northern and southern Europe, cutting the Basel/ZürichLuganoMilan journey time for passenger trains by one hour (and from Lucerne to Bellinzona by 45 minutes).[13]

After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the NRLA project in a 1992 referendum, first preparatory and exploratory work began in 1996. The official start of construction began on 4 November 1999 at Amsteg.[14] Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV,[15] and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011. The tunnel's constructor, AlpTransit Gotthard AG, originally planned to hand over the tunnel to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS) in operating condition in December 2016[16] but, on 4 February 2014, the handover date was changed to 5 June 2016 with the start of an 850-day opening countdown calendar on the AlpTransit homepage.[3] As of 1998, the total projected cost of the project was CHF 6.323 billion; as of December 2015, the final cost is projected as CHF 9.560 billion.[17] Nine people died during construction.[18]


The Gotthard Base Tunnel, with a length of 57.09 kilometres (35.47 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, is the longest railway tunnel in the world,[note 2] with a geodetic distance of 55.782 kilometres (34.661 mi) between the two portals.[4][9] It is also the first flat route through the Alps or any other major mountain range, with a maximum height of 549 metres (1,801 ft) above sea level,[4] corresponding to that of Berne. It is the deepest railway tunnel in the world, with a maximum depth of 2,450 metres (8,040 ft),[4] comparable to that of the deepest mines on Earth. Without ventilation, the temperature inside the mountain reaches 46 °C (115 °F).[4]

Like the two other tunnels passing below the Gotthard, the Gotthard Base Tunnel connects two Alpine valleys across the Saint-Gotthard Massif: the Urner Reusstal in the canton of Uri, in which flows the river Reuss, and the Valle Leventina, the largest valley in the canton of Ticino, in which the river Ticino flows. Unlike most other tunnels, the Gotthard Base Tunnel passes under several distinct mountain massifs, two of them being major subranges of the Alps, the Glarus Alps and the Saint-Gotthard Massif, with the valley of the Anterior Rhine, the Surselva in the canton of Graubünden, between them. The tunnel passes under these two ranges more than two kilometres (6,600 ft) below the Chrüzlistock (2,709 m (8,888 ft)) and the Piz Vatgira (2,983 m (9,787 ft), near the Lukmanier Pass). While the cantons of Uri and Ticino are part of the German- and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland respectively, the Surselva is mainly Romansh-speaking.

The north and south portals on the same spring day. Note the prevalence of coniferous trees and snow at the north portal and the absence of them at the south portal.

The Alps strongly influence the European climate – and that of Switzerland in particular – and there can be substantially different weather conditions at each end of the GBT, described by the Ticinese architect Mario Botta: "The light changes at the Gotthard: that of the Mediterranean Sea is not the same as that of the continent, that of the central lands, that of Europe far away from the sea."[19] On average, the temperature is 2 to 3 °C (4–5 °F) higher on the south side than the north side, but on some days, temperature differences are well over 10 °C (18 °F).[note 3]

The north portal lies in the north of the municipality of Erstfeld at an elevation of 460 metres (1,510 ft), east of the Reuss. There, the tunnel penetrates the western slopes of the Bälmeten and Chli Windgällen (although only marginally) before passing below the valley of the Chärstelenbach, a creek in the Maderanertal. From there, the tunnel runs parallel to the small valley of Etzli, below the Witenalpstock. The main crest of the Glarus Alps, which is the watershed between the Reuss and the Anterior Rhine, is crossed below the Chrüzlistock, the crest having an elevation of about 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) at this point. From the crest and border, the tunnel runs parallel to the small valley of the river Strem (Val Strem) before passing below Sedrun and the Anterior Rhine. From the bottom of the valley, the tunnel proceeds towards the valley of the Rein da Nalps (Val Nalps) and passes east of Lai da Nalps, before crossing the Gannaretsch range below the western summit of Piz Vatgira (2,981 metres (9,780 ft)). This is the deepest point of the tunnel, with a rock layer of 2,450 metres (8,040 ft) above it. The tunnel then passes below the valley of the Rein da Medel (Val Medel) and west of Lai da Sontga Maria. After a few kilometres the tunnel crosses the watershed between the Anterior Rhine and the Ticino, just north of Pizzo dell'Uomo (2,525 metres (8,284 ft)). This point corresponds to the main chain of the Alps, and is the main drainage divide between the Rhine and the Po. For a few kilometres, the tunnel passes below two western tributaries of the Brenno in the Valle Santa Maria before crossing the last range, west of the Passo Predèlp (about 2,500 metres (8,200 ft)) and east of Faido. It then follows the eastern slopes of the large Valle Leventina, the valley of the Ticino, for about 18 kilometres (11 mi) to the south portal at Bodio, at an elevation of 312 metres (1,024 ft), just 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) before Biasca, where the Brenno converges with the Ticino.[note 4]

The closest railway stations to the portals are Altdorf and Biasca. The first regularly served railway stations on the base line (as of 2016/17) are those of Arth-Goldau (Schwyz), a railway node with links to Lucerne and Zürich, and Bellinzona (the "Gate of Ticino"), with links to Locarno, Luino and Lugano (via the Monte Ceneri Rail Tunnel). The journey from Arth-Goldau to Bellinzona takes not more than an hour. The station of Altdorf is planned to be served by 2021. There also have been talks of using that of Biasca. The travel between Altdorf and Biasca would last less than 25 minutes.

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Qotard baza tuneli
Bahasa Indonesia: Terowongan Dasar Gotthard
Lëtzebuergesch: Gotthard-Basistunnel
Simple English: Gotthard Base Tunnel
slovenščina: Bazni predor Gotthard
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bazni tunel Gotthard
Tiếng Việt: Đường hầm Gotthard