The 57 km-long Gotthard base tunnel, the longest train tunnel in the world, is scheduled to open on the 11th of December 2016 , the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced.
The north-south axis will allow railway freight operators to design new cost-effective logistics solutions, based on increased capacities, higher number of connections and better traffic planning. Starting with 2020, the line will increase by 20% the cargo volume on Rotterdam-Genoa corridor. However the extension of the necessary access lines must be continued in the neighboring countries, Germany and Italy.
Starting with 2016/2017 railway timetable, five freight and two passenger trains per hour will run in each direction.
Railway passengers will benefit from reduced travel times, more reliable services, more connections and modern trains. For example the journey from Zurich to Lugano will take less than two hours, considering that Ceneri base tunnel will also be in service, and to Milan in less then three hours.
According to SBB, the number of passengers travelling through the Gotthard base tunnel will increase from 9,000 to 15,000 by 2020. Considering these forecasts, SBB invested in new train sets for the north-south axis route: eight new EMUs type ETR 610 were gradually commissioned since November 2016 and by the end of 2019, 29 new EMUs produced by Stadler Rail will operate on the route. In addition, the current fleet is modernised in order to comply with the safety standards for the tunnel.
SBB activities related to the opening of Gotthard base tunnel are in full swing: the training of 3,900 people and the installation of ETCS Level 2. Two new maintenance and intervention centers will open in Erstfeld and Biasca, employing nearly 300 people (including 120 new positions) responsible for maintenance management. The facilities will have 31 new maintenance vechicles and two new new fire-fighting and rescue trains.
The new north-south axis will be fully operational in 2020, after Ceneri base tunnel (2019) and 4m corridor (2020) will enter service. Until then a number of 25 construction projects – including the Ceneri base tunnel, improvement of numerous tunnels in Ticino, blocking the east side of Lake Zug, Bellinzone nodal point – are being carried out.