With construction of the new Gotthard rail link, Switzerland is implementing one of Europe's largest environmental-protection projects. Not only is construction work on the project of the century taking place as environmentally compatibly as possible: AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd is also ensuring that its projects are ecologically optimised. For example, tunnel water at the north end of the Gotthard Base Tunnel will be used for breeding native fish and crustaceans (shellfish) as well as to provide energy in the form of heat. ATG has reached agreement with «Basis57 nachhaltige Wassernutzung AG» for the purchase of approximately 2.5 hectares of land near the north portal.
As Urs Aschwanden, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Basis57, announced to the media on Thursday, September 18, 2014, the buildings for the fish farm will be built by 2020 and production scaled up in several phases until 2023. The investment value is between 25 and 30 million Swiss francs. A total of up to 25 jobs will be created. Before construction work can begin, the land must be rezoned. "If everything goes according to plan, the land will be purchased in 2016 and we can then start on a first construction phase", explained Urs Aschwanden.
Until the end of 2017, the land will continue to be used for construction of the traffic roundabout as well as demolition of the approach bridge to the motorway junction at Erstfeld, as Adrian Wildbolz, Head of Section North, AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, described. "AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd is very satisfied with the solution that has been found. The fish-farming project will make good and sustainable use of the land and strengthen Uri's economy."
Also at the other construction sites of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, work is currently in progress on reclaiming temporarily used land and restoring it to its original condition. At Amsteg, the former surface installations site has been completely recultivated and returned to agricultural use. At Rynächt, recultivation work will be completed in 2017. Also at Sedrun, Faido and Bodio, clearance and recultivation of the surface installations sites is in full swing.
Further environmental projects on ATG construction sites
Installed in the invert of the Gotthard Base Tunnel are tunnel-water pipes which must be constantly flushed with clean water. This water is collected at various locations in Sedrun and transported via a pressurised pipeline through the access adit and the 800-metres-deep shaft to the multifunction station at Sedrun. In a small hydro-electric power generator in the multifunction station at Sedrun, the kinetic energy that is released through transportation of the water down the shaft will be converted into electrical energy. The generator will produce around 1.1 GWh per annum. Construction work is in progress.
A study is also under way for an energy concept at Tujetsch, which is investigating whether geothermal heat from the rock temperature in the tunnel can be used to generate energy.
In the 3.2-kilometres-long spoil tunnel between Pollegio and Loderio in the Blenio Valley, compressed air will be stored to generate energy. Planning permission for a pilot system has been granted.
Projects to use warm water from the Gotthard Base Tunnel for a district heating system and a fish farm have also been elaborated but are currently suspended.