With the gathering this morning of the one thousand randomly selected representatives of the public for the first trips through the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), the opening festivities for the world's longest railway tunnel have begun. For the festival involving half a dozen heads of state and government, everything is ready. More than 2,000 individuals from the army, police, federal government, Swiss Federal Railways, AlpTransit Gotthard (ATG) and private companies are in action. In addition, 300 media professionals have been accredited from around 20 nations, including the USA, Canada, China, Japan, Kuwait and Chile as well as Switzerland's neighbouring countries.
Around 160,000 interested individuals from the public applied for a seat in the trains which today will be the first to travel through the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT). This morning, the one thousand lucky winners assembled in Arth-Goldau and Bellinzona to be welcomed aboard those trips and thereby to signal the start of today's GBT opening ceremony. Also on board are two school classes. Now that the preparations for the opening festivities have been successfully completed, everything is ready for the festival, stated the heads of the Federal Office of Transport (FOT), AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd (ATG) and SFR – Peter Füglistaler, Renzo Simoni and Andreas Meyer – at a media conference in Castione-Arbedo, near Bellinzona, this morning.
Already yesterday, close to the north portal, a memorial was dedicated to the nine persons who lost their lives during construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Relatives of the workers who died were also invited to the dedication ceremony. In addition, early this morning in an interfaith ceremony in the access adit at Amsteg, the tunnel was blessed.
Also the evening before the opening festivities, a conference of transport ministers and a meeting of European railway heads took place in Lugano. Today, the ministers and railway heads will take part in the opening ceremony, along with the entire Federal Council, the Swiss parliament, and many further guests. These include the heads of state and government of Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein, as well as the European Commissioner for Transport. In total, around 1,100 guests will participate.
To serve them, around 2,000 individuals representing the army, police, federal government, Swiss Federal Railways, AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, and private companies will be in action. These will be joined by several hundred professional and amateur artists who, under the direction of Volker Hesse, will present an artistic spectacle.
Around 300 media professionals will report on the opening ceremony. Although interest is greatest in Switzerland and Europe, media from the USA, Canada, China, Japan, Kuwait and Chile will also be represented with their own correspondents.
Today's celebration will be followed on June 2 by the festival for those involved in the project, organised by AlpTransit Gotthard, and on June 3 by the passage through the tunnel of the first goods train. On the weekend of June 4/5, under the umbrella leadership of Swiss Federal Railways, the public are invited to the open-house festivities at both portals.