On the 1st of June, Switzerland celebrated the inauguration of the new Goothard Base Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world. The first two passenger trains crossed the 57 km long tunnel from both sided after an overall planning and construction time of 20 years. A list of some specifications show the huge dimensions of the new tunnel:
- Western tunnel: 57.017 km (35.429 mi)
- Eastern tunnel: 57.104 km (35.483 mi)
- Total length of all tunnels and shafts: 151.840 km (94.35 mi)
- Diameter of each of the single-track tubes: 8.83–9.58 m (29.0–31.4 ft)
- Distance between cross passage tunnels: ca. 325 m (1,066 ft)
- Maximum overburden: 2,300 m (7,500 ft) (at Piz Vatgira)
- Start of construction: 1993 (sounding drills), 1996 (preparations), 2003 (mechanical excavation)
- End of construction: 2016
- Commissioning: May 2016
- Total cost: CHF 9.74 billion (as of October 2010) (US$10.1 billion)
- Trains per day: 200–250
- Amount of excavated rock: 28,200,000 t (31,100,000 short tons; 27,800,000 long tons), (13,300,000 m3 or 17,400,000 cu yd, the equivalent of 5 Giza pyramids)
- Number of tunnel boring machines (TBM): Four Herrenknecht Gripper TBMs — Machine numbers S-210 and S-211 operated northbound from Bodio to Faido and Sedrun and were nicknamed Sissi and Heidi respectively; Machines S-229 and S-230 operated southbound from Erstfeld to Sedrun and were known as Gabi I and Gabi II
From now on, passing the Alps at the Gotthard Pass will only take 20 minutes instead of 75. The Swiss goverment expects costs for railway companies to decrease by 30%. This will not only lead to a higher attractivity of the region for tourism, but also have a strong impact on the economy, since trade between the southern and northern countries of the Alps will be easier, faster, cheaper and more reliable, because trasportation becomes more independent from the weather.
While in the past all trains had to overcome a total difference in altitude of 680m, it will now only be 90m. This allows a 1600 tonns heavy train to set 2 railcars aside and pass the tunnel with only 1 railcar instead of 3. This will also lead to decreasing shunting times. Expertts expect the currently trasnported amount of 15 million tonns of goods to skyrocket within the next years.
To achiev this goal, railway companies urge regulatory authorothies to extend the allowed total lenght of a single train from 740m to 1500m. By doing so they argue, the loads of 240.000 trucks passing the Alps could be relocated to trains by 2030. Tests with these long trains are currently conducted in the Gotthard Base tunnel in order to gain experience.
However, to achieve the biggest benefit possible for all, additional construction and expansions of the the existing infrastructure in Germany and Italy have to be realized. Due to delays in these countries, the final axis will not be fully completed before 2035.