The first passenger train service rides through the world’s longest rail tunnel

The Gotthard Base tunnel, Switzerland's 'construction project of the century', received its first scheduled passenger train on December 11, 2016

Among a throng of TV cameras and photographers at Zurich main train station, those people lucky enough to have a ticket boarded the first scheduled passenger train service, bound for the Gotthard Base tunnel and onto Milan, Italy. At 57 kilometers, it cuts directly through the Gotthard mountain range and will reduce journey times between Zurich and Milan by roughly 35 minutes.

Bernhard Jucker, ABB’s President of Europe and Executive Committee member, was among the train passengers. While attending the official inauguration of the tunnel in June 2016, he reminisced of his childhood train journeys,  “As a family we had no car, we were always travelling by train. To stand here in front of the new base tunnel of the Gotthard, that feels really good, I can tell you.”

Bernhard Jucker, ABB’s President of Europe, boards the train at Zurich main train station, bound for the Gotthard Base tunnel, in the early hours of Sunday morning, December 11, 2016

The “construction project of the century”

After 17 years of construction, the Gotthard Base tunnel officially opened to the public last summer. Widely hailed as the ‘construction project of century’, 80,000 visitors joined in the festivities during the public days on June 4 and 5, 20,000 of whom visited ABB’s special technology pavilions, which toured through Switzerland during the autumn. During the course of the pubic opening in June, the SBB organised special train rides through the tunnel. 160,000 people applied for the 1000 available tickets, such was the demand to be one of the first passengers to travel through the tunnel.

ABB’s special technology pavilion on tour in sunny Luzern, Switzerland

ABB’s contribution

Described as the ‘muscle and lungs’ of the tunnel, ABB supplied the major electrical components for the entire 50-Hz power supply of the tunnel infrastructure, as well as the power supply and control systems for the ventilation system, which at 15.6 megawatts is the most powerful in the world.

“We are particularly proud to be part of this infrastructure project of the century; it’s a masterpiece of technology and of project management,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, who also attended the official inauguration of the tunnel in June 2016.

In addition to reducing passenger journey times, this route through the Gotthard is set to bring significant economic and environmental benefits: the tunnel allows for increased transport capacity and longer and heavier freight trains, taking more heavy-duty freight trucks off Switzerland’s alpine roads – demonstrating the power of technological innovation and precise engineering.


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Gregory Hollings

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