In what can come as inspiration for Indian rail engineers, the 57-kilometre long Gotthard rail tunnel – the world’s longest rail tunnel cutting through the Alps – is now ready for commissioning.
“Eleven days from now, the tunnel will be handed over and commercial operations will begin shortly”, said Peter Huber, CEO of the Transfer Gotthard, the Swiss-Italian consortium that executed the ambitious project, which aims to provide for a rail freight corridor from Rotterdam in Holland to Genova in Italy.
India’s longest tunnel is the 11.2 kilometre link from Banihal to Quazikund linking the Jammu region to the Kashmir valley.
The completion of the Gotthard tunnel provides a boost to India’s Kashmir rail link project that envisages the construction of the world’s highest rail bridge over River Beas. “ Rail technology has advanced. Austrian tunneling technology that is being used in the Kashmir project should enable faster execution”, said Dr Alfred Veider, CEO of Thales Austria.Thales has commissioned signalling work for the Gotthard tunnel, including the installation of the European Train Control System (ECTS).
While providing seamless freight and passenger transportation across Europe’s north-south axis, the Gotthard tunnel will reduce travel time from Zurich in Switzerland to Milan in Italy from the existing four to three hours. Over an execution period of eight years, the tunnel has been built at a cost 1.9 billion Swiss francs.
The Gotthard not only connects two regions, but had also been an example of an engineering feat achieved by engineers working in two different languages. Swiss and Italian engineers worked on the project in their own languages.
Approximately 250 passenger trains running at speeds of 250 kilometers per hour will cross the Gotthard tunnel each day, besides 80 freight trains that will run at a speed of 160kmph, said Christian Glattli of Transtec-Gotthard.
“Our aim is to ensure the shifting of heavy duty transport to the more environment friendly railway system”, he said.