Start of pilot operation in the Gotthard Base Tunnel

Milestone under the Gotthard: Today, Monday, December 16, 2013, Swiss Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard officially opened pilot operation in the west tube of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. For the first time, a train travelled over the approximately 13-kilometres-long pilot section from Bodio to Faido at a speed of 160 km/h. Pilot operation will provide important information in preparation for opening the Gotthard Base Tunnel to scheduled train services in December 2016. Until the official inauguration of the world's longest railway tunnel at the beginning of June 2016, 900 days remain.

Accompanied by Renzo Simoni, CEO of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, and Andreas Meyer, CEO of Swiss Federal Railways, Transport Minister Doris Leuthard expressed her pleasure at witnessing the start of pilot operation. It was a further milestone in the construction project of the century. "Innovation, precision, safety and reliability – these are the values with which our country prospers – and these are the foundations on which the Gotthard Base Tunnel is built. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far."

900 days to inauguration

Federal Councillor Leuthard also announced the inauguration date for the world's longest tunnel. "In 900 days' time we shall be able to celebrate completion of the Gotthard Base Tunnel and begin trial operations through the full length of the tunnel. So its inauguration will take place in the first week of June, 2016. On the weekend of June 4/5, 2016, there will be a big celebration for the public. People of all ages will be able to participate in the project's completion and experience the tunnel. One or two days beforehand, the official opening with national and international guests will take place. Preparations for the opening ceremony will begin soon."

"The countdown is running!", added Renzo Simoni as Chief Executive Officer of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd. "The six months of pilot operation are an important prerequisite to enable us to hand over the tunnel to the government and Swiss Federal Railways ready for operation at the beginning of June 2016." Swiss Federal Railways CEO Andreas Meyer confirmed that work for commissioning the SFR north-south axis is on schedule. "The basic requirements have now been fulfilled to allow the construction projects on the approach sections to be rapidly implemented and put into operation. In the future, passengers as well as goods will be transported faster and more reliably in great safety with a high level of timetable stability."

Speeds up to 220 km/h

The approximately 13-kilometres-long pilot section in the west tube of the Gotthard Base Tunnel between the south portal at Bodio and the multifunction station at Faido has already been completely fitted out with the necessary railway infrastructure systems. Between now and June 2014, testing will take place on about 100 days. The purpose of pilot operation is to obtain preliminary confirmation that the entire tunnel system meets the specified requirements. Tests will be conducted of the complex interplay between the various processes, systems and equipment such as the track, overhead conductor, power supply, tunnel infrastructure, train control and safety, as well as operational communications. Between now and June 2014, trains will travel over the pilot section at speeds reaching a maximum of 220 km/h. Pilot operation will be performed under the management of AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd, which has leased the necessary locomotive personnel and rolling stock from Swiss Federal Railways. In parallel, installation of the railway infrastructure systems in the remaining sections of the Gotthard Base Tunnel continues.