At exactly 12.00 noon today, January 21, 2016, the final breakthrough in the west tube of the Ceneri Base Tunnel took place. Shortly after this last blast, the miners could shake hands. In the coming months, this will now be followed by lining the tunnel and installing the railway infrastructure systems. Commissioning of the 15.4-kilometres-long Ceneri Base Tunnel is scheduled to take place at the end of 2020.
Around 700 metres away from the north portal at Camorino, more than 1,000 project participants, including miners, contractors, engineers, planners, geologists and surveyors, together with the guests of honour, followed the final blast in the west tube of the Ceneri Base Tunnel. The breakthrough took place with great accuracy: the horizontal deviation was 2 cm and vertically 1 cm. The event was broadcast live by Ticino Television (RSI).
In his address, Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, expressed his thanks to all project participants, and especially the miners, for their outstanding work. "You have done a tremendous job and can justifiably feel proud. Without your dedication this great success would not have been possible." However, Renzo Simoni also recalled the two miners who lost their lives during construction of the Ceneri Base Tunnel.
Duccio Astaldi, Head of the Condotte Cossi Consortium, also drew a positive conclusion: "We have become better acquainted with conditions in the Swiss labour market and learnt to appreciate them. We, as a company, could also benefit from them."
In his speech, The Ticino Director of Construction, Claudio Zali, spoke of the great significance of the Ceneri Base Tunnel for regional transportation between Bellinzona-Locarno-Lugano. Peter Füglistaler, Director of the Federal Office of Transport, emphasised that the importance of the Ceneri Base Tunnel extends far beyond the Canton of Ticino and Switzerland. "With its policy of consistently transferring transalpine goods traffic from road to rail, Switzerland is exemplary in Europe. With it, Switzerland demonstrates that, at least in transportation, its openness has proved effective and that it strives for sustainable and practical solutions."
Construction of the Ceneri Base Tunnel
Like the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the 15.4-kilometres-long Ceneri Base Tunnel consists of two single-track tunnels, which every 325 metres are linked by an approximately 40-metres-long cross passage. Because of the tunnel's shorter length, no track crossovers or emergency-stop stations are needed.
In view of the complex geology, the Ceneri Base Tunnel was excavated entirely by drilling and blasting. The maximum rock overburden is up to 900 metres, the least only a few metres. Most of the excavation was performed simultaneously in both directions from the intermediate heading at Sigirino. From the portals at Vigana and Vezia, inward drives were excavated to minimise time and costs. Construction of the Ceneri Base Tunnel produced about 8 million tonnes of excavated rock.
First preparatory work was performed already in 1997 with the 3.1-kilometres-long exploratory tunnel. In 2008, a tunnel boring machine cut a 2.3-kilometers-long access adit. At the end of this adit are two underground caverns which, from 2010, were the starting points for the main drives running south and north.
The second final breakthrough, in the east tube, will take place at the beginning of next week. The Ceneri Base Tunnel is scheduled to become operational in December 2020.
Next work operations in the Ceneri Base Tunnel
With the final breakthrough, work operations in the Ceneri Base Tunnel are not yet complete. In the coming months, further progress will be made on the tunnel lining. By the end of 2016, all tubes and adits will have been completely lined and concreted. The railway infrastructure system specialists are fitting out the tunnel with mechanical and electromechanical systems such as doors, ventilation systems and building management systems. These ensure that the railway tunnel can be safely operated and maintained. Installation of the railway infrastructure systems will begin in summer 2017. The railway infrastructure installations comprise the track, catenary, electric power supply, cables, telecommunication and radio systems, safety and automation systems, and control systems.