Swiss train in the Alps

World’s longest railway tunnel to reopen after a year

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has confirmed that the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, will reopen on 2nd September.

The tunnel closed on 10th August last year following the derailment of a freight train, and SBB has since been pushing ahead with repair work.

Once the tunnel reopens, services will resume at the frequency they operated before the derailment, and will reduce travel times for customers crossing the Alps by rail by an hour.

Before the reopening of the tunnel, SBB is undertaking a series of tests using empty trains to check the working order of interaction between the new systems, including the brand new track.

At 57 kilometres long and more than 2400 metres underground at its deepest, work on the Gotthard Base Tunnel is an ongoing task. Maintenance work is regularly carried out in the tunnel, and several maintenance programmes were brought forward and performed during the year-long closure.

Gotthard Base Tunnel factfile

Meanwhile, a report by the Swiss Safety Investigation Board (SUST) on the cause of the accident last August is still pending. An interim report states that a broken wheel disc led to the derailment.

This report prompted Switzerland’s Federal Office of Transport (BAV) to launch an appeal to other European rail authorities to check the wheels on their freight locomotives and, if necessary, to take them out of service.

SBB has also analysed the accident internally and has introduced a series of measures to prevent a repeat incident. For example, increased use of train control equipment and image data will assist with the early detection of necessary maintenance measures on trains.

Additionally, a temporary speed limit of 160 km/h will be implemented in the area of the portal lane changes at each end of the tunnel. Trains will still be able to reach speeds of 230 km/h in the tunnel.

SBB is also considering installing trackside derailment detectors, although the complex planning, installation and integration of such a system means this is a medium- to long-term project.

Image credit: iStock

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