Switzerland

Tunnelling the Gotthard: Tunnellers present comprehensive Engineering Book about the Gotthard Base Tunnel

In the middle of May, a few weeks before the official ceremony to open the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), the Swiss Tunnelling Society (Fachgruppe für Untertagbau/FGU) presented their comprehensive engineering reference book “Tunnelling the Gotthard” to the public for the first time. On the occasion of the viewing in the presence of more than 150 guests at the Swiss Museum of Transport, speakers included the former Swiss Federal Council member Adolf Ogi, who gave a much noticed speech.

Talks by some of those involved with the project then provided a dignified framework for the presentation of the 719 page reference book. The speakers clearly described how the engineers and contractors have created a milestone in Swiss transport policy. This major project, it was generally agreed, has fulfilled the criteria “quality”, “costs” and “schedule” in an exemplary manner and new standards have been set for Swiss conditions. The speakers were also all agreed that the Gotthard Base Tunnel is not only significant for trans-European rail transport but also, by linking German-speaking Switzerland to the Tessin, represents an important structure for the cohesion of Switzerland.

The NRLA as a good Investment

Adolf Ogi in his talk went once more through the history of the decision-making process for the design of the NRLA (New Railway Link through the Alps), with particular attention to the development and construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel and with a reference to a “successfully functioning“ Lötschberg Base Tunnel. For the NRLA as an economic and transport investment, the currently estimated cost is “23 billion well invested Swiss francs”, since the project is oriented toward Europe and will be of great use for future generations. The NRLA demonstrates “courage to take a quantum leap” – even if it did take a long time. And it will still require plenty of work and innovation until the hoped-for amount of goods traffic through the Alps can be shifted from road to rail with the aid of the NRLA, said Ogi.

A “proper final Documentation” for the Base Tunnel

Heinz Ehrbar, board member of the STS, could already describe the sub-project Gotthard Base Tunnel as a “right on time” and as a “tidy completion”. “Therefore a proper final documentation seems appropriate”, he said.

“It is good that the story has been written by the people who were actually involved“, said Ehrbar with reference to the authors of the book. He himself was finally the manager of tunnel and rail construction at the Gotthard Base Tunnel from 2006 to 2012 and has taken part in writing many of the chapters. “What have we achieved with the Gotthard Base Tunnel?” asked Ehrbar. “This question is answered in the book and the route is also described.” In this way, the book deals with subjects like the essential progress in working safety for the construction of the GBT, the development of new concreting and waterproofing systems in order to ensure a 100 year lifetime, the client-contractor-operator model with its “balanced placing of duties, competences and responsibilities” and also public acceptance as a key building block for the success of the project: the integration of the public into the planning process, said Ehrbar, had made “affected” people into “allies”.

“Tunnelling the Gotthard” – already available in German

In “Tunnelling the Gotthard”, more than a hundred experts who were directly involved in the project describe how they contributed to, collaborated in and experienced this monumental project. They include Doris Leuthard and Adolf Ogi, two members of the Federal Council, who have each contributed a foreword.

The book has 97 specialist articles with a wide spectrum of content. Divided into 18 themed sections, the articles cover subjects such as the political environment in the 1980s, the design and planning of the project, tendering and construction in all its aspects from logistics and surveying through materials management, M&E installation and rail technology to environmental questions. The overall management processes are also devoted their own detailed section.

The collected facts about the 57 km long Gotthard Base Tunnel demonstrate with how much competence, capability, precision, vision and also innovation the decision-makers, engineers and contractors contributed to the Gotthard Base Tunnel as another showpiece project for Swiss tunnelling.

The German version of “Tunnelling the Gotthard” is already available from the STS (www.swisstunnel.ch); the English version of the book will be published in the middle of November 2016.

Marvin Klostermeier

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