Gotthard Base Tunnel set to reopen in September

Gotthard Base Tunnel set to reopen in September
Gotthard Base Tunnel set to reopen in September

The rehabilitation of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is progressing as planned. The west gallery was heavily damaged during the derailment of a freight train on August 10, 2023. From September, the 57 km long crossing of the Alps should be passable again.

An important stage of the repair work is underway, the SBB explained on site on Friday during a media visit: the new diagonal gate is installed at the Faido multifunction station.

The Gotthard base tunnel is made up of two tubes. In the Faido multifunction station, which is also an emergency stop, trains can change tubes. Normally, this passage is closed by the diagonal door, which prevents smoke from passing from one tube to another in the event of a possible fire.

‘A challenge’

During the derailment, the door was partially struck by a freight car. The passage was then temporarily closed, so that the tunnel could be operated with restrictions. Replacing the steel door measuring seven meters high, four meters wide, more than 40 centimeters thick and weighing ten tonnes was a challenge, SBB emphasizes.

It had to be specially made. Delivery times for the various parts took months. SBB has learned lessons from this: a stock has been built up for certain parts, explained Tom Gut, head of the southern region of SBB infrastructure. This will allow you to react more quickly in the event of future repairs.

The wagon whose wheel broke and which caused the derailment also damaged the track over a length of seven kilometers. As with the gate, the SBB did not yet have experience in replacing this fixed track, explains Tom Gut. It was necessary to replace 20,000 sleeper blocks and remove 6,500 tonnes of concrete by milling. The damage caused to the tunnel amounts to 150 million francs.

Big cleaning

Work on the track is largely complete, work on the diagonal gate should be completed in June. Further work is then planned, including railway technology, lighting and fire sensors. The tunnel will also be cleared of fine dust.

Before the Gotthard Base Tunnel can be fully returned to operation, extensive tests and trial runs will be necessary.

The SBB continues to expect a full return to service in September. From there, they will also be able to offer a full half-hourly schedule in mainline traffic between German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino.

/ATS

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