On 1 June 2016, 17 years after the first blast in the main tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel was officially opened at a five-hour ceremony. Politicians from Switzerland and other countries accepted invitations to attend, including the German chancellor Angela Merkel, the French president François Hollande and the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. Surrounded by members of the Swiss Federal Council, Swiss president Schneider-Ammann symbolically cut through the tape in the afternoon and handed over the tunnel to Swiss Railways SBB.
The main tunnel consisting of two single track bores is 57 km long, the longest rail tunnel in the world; if all connecting and access tunnels and shafts are included, the entire tunnel system amounts to more than 152 km.
The new tunnel attracted more than 100 000 people to the following weekend events: a good 80 000 visitors came to the four large sites at the Gotthard. In addition, another 25 000 people visited events at the stations in Aarau, Biel, Bern, Geneva, Zürich and Winterthur, the largest number being the 10 000 who came to Zürich.
More than 35 000 guests also took the opportunity to travel through the new Gotthard tunnel. The passengers unanimously praised the good mobile phone reception in the 57 km long rail tunnel, which runs under rock overburden up to 2300 m deep and is thus also the deepest underground rail tunnel in the world. The visitors to the ceremonies travelled from all parts of the country and adjacent countries. The people of the cantons of Uri and Tessin were also well represented among the visitors.
In Erstfeld and Rynächt (north) as well as Pollegio and Biasca (south), an extensive programme was on offer with information, culture and entertainment for children. The visitors also gained an exclusive outlook into future mobility. The ETZ universities of Zürich and Lausanne, the university of St. Gallen and further partners showed what travel could look like in the future and what opportunities these technological and societal changes can offer.
Intensive Trial Operation
Regular timetable services through the Gotthard Base Tunnel should start on 11 December 2016. In the summer, the first commercial trains will run through the base tunnel as part of trial operations. Working practices will be further trained and refined in the fields of operations, maintenance and safety. The training of 3900 employees of SBB and other companies for the specific conditions in the longest rail tunnel in the world will also be completed by the start of regular services.