Scheduled services to run from 11 December 2016: SBB is on track for the opening of the new Gotthard Base Tunnel.

In precisely two years time, the first scheduled services will run through the new 57 km long Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world. The north-south Gotthard corridor paves the way for new, efficient and envi-ronmentally friendly logistics solutions for railway freight traffic. Customers will benefit from an increase in capacity, better connections and improved scope for planning. The new railway age will progressively bring faster and increasingly reliable and punctual connections to passenger transport too. Up to five freight trains and two passenger trains will run per hour in each direction. At SBB, the preparation work for the successful opening of the tunnel is well under way. This includes training around 3,900 people and equipping facilities and railway stations with the ETCS level 2 cab signalling system.

The opening of the longest railway tunnel in the world on 11 December 2016 is the key milestone for the renovated north-south Gotthard corridor. Following the timetable change in 2016/2017, up to five freight trains and two passenger trains will run per hour in each direction. This will provide freight transport with additional, faster connections on the north-south Gotthard corridor. The trains will also run more reliably and be more predictable for customers, as weather-related route closures will be largely avoidable.

The new Gotthard Base Tunnel will bring Ticino and the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland much closer together, providing cargo customers with new market opportunities. Amongst other things, this will enable several daily deliveries and collections to take place at major locations in Ticino. Fruit and vegetables from Ticino and northern Italy that were harvested the previous day can be delivered to western Swiss subsidiaries early the very next morning. For international transit traffic, the new Gotthard Base Tunnel marks the first major step towards a flat rail route through the Alps. From 2020, this will make it possible to increase the volume on the major European corridor from Rotterdam to Genoa by up to 20 percent. However, further development work will have to be done on certain access routes in the neighbouring countries of Germany and Italy too.

Faster connections in Ticino and to Milan

With regard to passenger traffic, passengers can look forward to an increased number of connections, modernised trains and noticeably shorter travel times. From 2020, the journey from Zurich to Lugano, for example, will take less than two hours once the Ceneri Base Tunnel comes into operation too. A trip from Zurich to Milan will therefore take less than three hours. The improvements to the north-south Gotthard corridor will be completed in stages – until the Ceneri Base Tunnel opens, a temporary timetable with reduced improvements in travel times will apply (see table). By December 2016, the journey from Zurich and Zug to Ticino will take around 25 minutes less than it does today.

New trains and more than double the capacity

Around 9,000 SBB passengers currently travel on the Gotthard route every day. By 2020, demand may increase substantially to at least 15,000 travellers a day. SBB is therefore investing in new international rolling stock for north-south traffic. Eight new ETR 610 multiple units have been gradually coming into operation since November 2014. From the end of 2019, 29 new multiple units produced by Stadler Rail will be running on the north-south corridor and the existing national fleet will be brought up to the enhanced safety standards required for the new Gotthard Base Tunnel. This will affect 18 ICN trains, 13 locomotives and 127 standard IC coaches, which will be fully operational by the end of 2016.

Work is running on schedule

The preparations for the opening of the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is being carried out in close collaboration with the Federal Office of Transport, AlpTransit Gotthard AG and the cantons of Uri and Ticino, is in full swing. Over the next two years, around 3,900 employees from SBB, third-party rail companies and cantonal emergency services will be trained to work in and around the new Gotthard Base Tunnel over the course of more than 20,000 days of training. Two new maintenance and intervention centres are also being established in Erstfeld und Biasca, which around 300 employees (including 120 newly created jobs) will use as a base to carry out maintenance and repair work. They will be provided with 31 new maintenance vehicles and two new fire-fighting and rescue vehicles. In addition, the new electronic signal box in Altdorf will get up and running in mid-2015. The electronic signal box in Pollegio in the south will follow suit at the end of October 2015. Along with the conversion of facilities and stations between Brunnen and Castione to ETCS Level 2 cab signalling, this will pave the way for shorter train headways.

25 construction projects by 2020

The new north-south Gotthard corridor will reach its full potential in 2020 after the opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel (2019) and the 4-metre corridor (2020). Until then, some 25 construction projects will be completed on the access routes, such as on the eastern side of Lake Zug, the renovation of the lakeside tracks on the Axen route and the Bellinzona nodal point and the construction of several tunnels in Ticino. Concentrating trains in terms of both time and space is a major challenge when it comes to ensuring timetable stability. Using a range of measures relating to rolling stock, construction and operations, SBB will limit the impact on customers as much as possible until the construction projects are completed.

Progressively shorter travel times

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