The cantons of Valais and Bern together with Swissgrid, operator of the Swiss high-voltage transmission network, have presented plans for the construction of a narrow-gauge railway line connecting Innertkirchen (BE) and Oberwald (VS). The centerpiece of the railway line will be a tunnel of about 22 km, starting from Innertkirchen, beneath the Grimsel Pass. Swissgrid aims to use the tunnel for accommodating its high-voltage electricity cables, enabling the dismantle of the 121 transmission towers and 22 km of power lines on Grimsel.
According to State Councillor Barbara Egger-Jenzer, the innovative project triggers new opportunities for public transport and tourism. With the new railway, a network of around 850 km metre-gauge lines will connect the tourist areas of several cantons. The initiators estimate that 400,000 passengers per year will use the new line. In total, the project could generate an added value of about CHF 5-5.5 million for the region.
A study conducted on behalf of Bern, Valais and Uri cantons, in association with other partners has confirmed the feasibility of the project and the interest of the synergies between rail and electricity supply.
Project set up and development costs, up to obtaining building authorisation, reach CHF 6 million and will be supported by the cantons involved in the project. The costs of the tunnel construction, including the underground galleries for the power cables are estimated at CHF 580 million. These will be supported by Grimselbahn AG and Swissgrid. Berne and Valais cantons have already submitted the project to the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (BAV) for obtaining financing from he Swiss rail infrastructure fund.
The Grimsel railway tunnel is planed for opening in 2025.