With construction of the flat route under the Alps, Switzerland is again creating travel history. The idea of a flat crossing of the Alps is not new. The first vision of a Gotthard base tunnel was already conceived in 1947.
More than 150 km of tunnels, galleries, cross passages and shafts had to be excavated for the future flat route through Switzerland to become reality. Much work remains to be done, and many obstacles to be overcome, before scheduled train services can begin.
Overview of the most important milestones:
1940s and 1950s: first visions
In 1947, the engineer and traffic planner Carl Eduard Gruner of Basel sketched a two-storey combined road and rail tunnel between Amsteg and Bodio, including an underground railway station at Sedrun. The Swiss government's "Gotthard Tunnel" study group investigated various alternatives for a road tunnel. Recommendations included construction of a 45-kilometres-long twin-track railway tunnel from Amsteg to Giornico.
1960s and 1970s: political discussion of the route
In 1963, the Swiss Federal Government established a committee for a "Railway Tunnel through the Alps", which evaluated the various alternatives for railway tunnels. In 1971, the committee decided on a twin-track tunnel through the Gotthard, part of it divided into two single-track tunnels. Swiss Federal Railways were tasked by the government with elaborating the construction project for the Gotthard base line Erstfeld–Biasca. However, an economic recession, as well as political disagreement between proponents of the Gotthard, Simplon and Splügen routes, blocked the tunnel project.
1980s: decision for network variant
In the mid-1980s, new variants and routes entered the political arena. In 1989, the Swiss government declared itself in favour of the "network variant": a combination of transalpine railway links through the Gotthard and Lötschberg and a Hirzel Tunnel as link to eastern Switzerland.
1990s: pathmaking referendums
In 1992, the 64% majority acceptance of the proposals for the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA) formed the planning basis for the projects under the Gotthard and Lötschberg. In 1996, the federal government redimensioned the NRLA: the Lötschberg was designed to be single-track and the Hirzel Tunnel was completely eliminated. In 1998, the electorate voted in favour of the phased NRLA. With their acceptance of the Heavy Vehicle Tax (HVT), as well as the proposal for modernization of the railways (FinöV), the Swiss people finally cleared the way for construction of the New Rail Link through the Alps. The tendering process for the construction work on the Amsteg, Sedrun, Faido and Bodio sections can begin.
2000 - today
From 1999 until 2011, excavation work is in progress for the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Excavation for the Ceneri starts in 2006. On October 15, 2010, the first final breakthrough takes place between Sedrun and Faido. The entire 57 kilometres length of the Gotthard Base Tunnel has been completely cut in the east tunnel.
In 2010, at the south portal of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, installation of the railway infrastructure systems begins in the west tube between Bodio and Faido. By 2012, the 16-kilometres-long section will be completely equipped with railway infrastructure systems which include the railway track, catenary, electric power supply, telecommunications and safety systems.
You will find further information in the detailed history (German).