Switzerland: Light at end of longest rail tunnel
15 October 2010
"Switzerland has fulfilled its promise to Europe," writes Le Temps: “by cutting the world’s longest railway tunnel [57 km] through the Alps.” The Geneva daily explains that in the early 1990s Switzerland resisted EU pressure to authorise the free passage of 40-tonne trucks across its territory on environmental grounds. This refusal led to an alternative rail solution after Switzerland and the European Community signed the Land Transport Agreement, “paving the way for the Lötschberg tunnel, which entered into service in 2007, and the Gothard Base Tunnel (GBT) [which will be fully completed in 2017] – two of the main Alpine connections in a rail network that will link Rotterdam to Genoa.” According to the most recent estimates, the construction of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) will cost 18.7 billion Swiss francs (14 billion euros), of which 12.2 billion will be spent on the GBT and the Ceneri Base Tunnel, which will feed into it. “That is 3.9 billion more than the budget presented to parliament and the people 12 years ago,” remarks the newspaper.
Now that excavation work on the tunnel has been completed, Le Temps wonders if “Switzerland will not be subjected to further demands from the EU for an East-West corridor: “The enlargement of the EU to include the counties of the former Eastern Bloc has had a major impact on traffic flows. Demand may have grown on the North-South axis, but it has soared on East-West routes.” However, Swiss authorities believe that “East-West traffic will pass to both the north and south of the country,” on the Paris-Strasbourg-Munich and Spain-Lombardy-Balkans routes.