Ceneri Base Tunnel: Blast-driving the main tunnel from Sigirino begins

Today, Wednesday, March 10, 2010, the main work for driving the Ceneri Base Tunnel was started with an official first blast in the installations cavern at Sigirino.

„With the start of blasting, the actual driving work for the Ceneri Base Tunnel has now also begun“, commented Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd. „This brings the vision of a flat route through the Alps closer all the time.”

Drilling and blasting are being performed by the Condotte Cossi Consortium. The Condotte Cossi Consortium is composed of the companies Società Italiana per Condotte d’Acqua S.p.A. (Rome), Cossi S.p.A. (Sondrio) and Cossi SA (Lugano).

In the next few months, installations that are needed for driving the two railway tunnels of the Ceneri Base Tunnel will be put into place. The construction site should be ready for full-scale driving in the autumn of 2010.

Excavation, support and lining work should be finished in 2016. The railway infrastructure will then be installed. Commercial operation of the Ceneri Base Tunnel with scheduled train services is planned to start at the end of 2019.

With a length of 15.4 km between the north portal at Vigana, near Camorino, and the south portal at Vezia, near Lugano, after the Gotthard and Lötschberg Base Tunnels the Ceneri Base Tunnel is the third-largest tunnel project in Switzerland. Only with the Ceneri Base Tunnel as the continuation and extension of the Gotthard Base Tunnel will the new Gotthard line become a continuous flat route for freight traffic through Switzerland.

Construction status of the Gotthard Base Tunnel
In total, almost 95% of the approximately 151.8 kilometres of shafts, passages and tunnels of the Gotthard Base Tunnel have now been excavated. The first final breakthrough of the 57-kilometres-long Gotthard Base Tunnel is scheduled to take place in the east tunnel in the autumn of 2010. To reach this point, a further 3 km remain for the miners to excavate between Sedrun and Faido.

The drive in the west tunnel is around 400 m behind the east tunnel. At the end of last week, the tunnel boring machine in the west tunnel encountered a geological interference zone. Following a rock fall, driving has had to be temporarily suspended. At present, the measures for probing through the fallen rock area are being defined. Driving is expected to be interrupted for up to 4 weeks. The rock fall will have no effect on the time schedule for commissioning of the Gotthard Base Tunnel at the end of 2017.