At 2.30pm (Swiss time) the East Tube of the world’s longest Railway Tunnel, the 57km long twin tube Gotthard Tunnel, broke through. The 9.43m diameter Herrenknecht TBM, driven by the Tansco JV, completed the final section of the landmark project between the Faido and Sedrun sections with an 8cm horizontal and 1cm vertical deviation.
Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger in an emotional speech said, “This breakthrough is a symbol of what policy can do, when we make it together.”
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Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer of project client, AlpTransit Gotthard AG, singled out the numerous miners in his thanks. “Through their years of tireless commitment, they have made this world record possible. The miners are the heroes of today’s celebrations.”
At the breakthrough point deep inside the mountain, a little over 6km south of Sedrun, about 200 people witnessed the breakthrough of the TBM. About 3500 miners and others involved in the project, including current and former engineers, planners, geologists and surveyors, followed the event on big screens at various venues: the Sedrun workshop, the Faido multifunction station, the north portal in Erstfeld, and the KKL in Lucerne. Swiss TV broadcast the event live throughout Switzerland and internationally.
The Gotthard base tunnel consists of two parallel single-track tubes, connected every 325m by 40m cross-passages (click on the diagram for an expanded view of the Tunnel Lots). Overall, the tunnel system including the twin tubes, shafts and galleries, measures 151.8km. The Gotthard base tunnel was built simultaneously in five sections Erstfeld, Amsteg, Sedrun, Faido and Bodio. The structure was mostly constructed using four Herrenknecht TBMs, with the mid section, Sedrun, tunnelled by drill and blast. The first works were carried out back in 1993, with the Piora exploratory boring, and from 1996 to 1998 with the blasting of the access shafts in Sedrun, Faido and Amsteg. Since 2001, the main lots have been constructed. The final breakthrough in the west tube is planned to take place in April 2011.
The 57km Gotthard base tunnel traverses the Alps, connecting the north portal in Erstfeld (Canton Uri) with the south portal in Bodio (Canton Ticino). With a rock overburden of up to 2500m, the Gotthard base tunnel is also the most deeply set rail tunnel in the world. Together with the 15.4km Ceneri base tunnel, the Gotthard base tunnel will provide a level track through the Alps. The base tunnel through the Gotthard is the core of the new rail connection and is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2017. This will markedly improve passenger and freight transport through the heart of Europe, allowing the shift of north-south freight traffic from road to rail, and shorten the journey time from Zurich to Milan from 3 hours 40 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes.