The 17 year project of building the Gotthard Base Tunnel has finally been completed in Erstfeld, Switzerland and is set to open for business in December of 2016. The cost of the project exceeded $12 billion dollars, but the effects of the tunnel on the economy of Europe should be well worth the price tag. The Gotthard Base Tunnel, which cuts through the Swiss Alps at 35.6 miles will claim the title of the world’s longest and deepest tunnel in the world surpassing Japan’s 33.4 mile Seikan Tunnel. Furthermore, the tunnel will be able to handle up to 260 freight trains daily at a max speed of 62 miles per hour on its two single track lines. In addition, the tunnel will harbor 65 passenger cars that will travel at a speed of 155 mph. Geographically the Gotthard Tunnel will be a valuable link connecting the top northern ports of Europe (Rotterdam and Antwerp) with southern Europe.
There are several economic benefits that the Gotthard Tunnel will offer to Europe. One of these advantages is that the tunnel will cut travel times for containers travelling across Europe while also diverting traffic to southern European ports. Secondly the switch to rail trains as opposed to freight trucks will significantly reduce the danger of deadly road crashes involving trucks. Simon Peggs of AlpTransit Gotthard explains that “the main reason for the construction of this tunnel was to get the goods traffic off the motorway and onto the trains.” Back in 1992, Swiss officials estimated that by the year 2020 roads would be so blocked that an alternative form of transportation would need to be constructed. Another benefit of the tunnel is how it will drastically decrease the environmental damage caused by the increasing freight hauled by heavy trucks. Ultimately, quicker travel times will allow for more increased imports into the northern and southern ports of Europe which will indirectly help to accelerate the economy of the European Union. The quicker freight is moved across the continent, the more that ports and shipping companies will find their own businesses booming. Another goal of the Gotthard tunnel is to make railway travel more competitive with air travel. In fact, the tunnel will cut off at least an hour of travel time between the major cities of Zurich, Switzerland and Milan, Italy. The tunnel’s importance to Europe’s transportation system and trade is emphasized by the attendance of the German Chancellor, French President, and Italian Prime Minister.
Between now and the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, about 5,000 trial runs will be done in the month of May alone. According to Renzo Simoni, CEO of one of the companies involved in constructing the tunnel, the company has a responsibility to do a thorough test of the “functionality and fulfillment of the safety requirements in the Gotthard Base Tunnel.” As it stands, 2,600 workers have been involved in the construction of the tunnel. Contractors have pledged to bring the safest conditions possible to the railway system starting with cooling air temperatures within the tunnel, which could reach upward of 113 degrees Fahrenheit.