Construction

Despite being such a vast undertaking, the NRLA progresses quickly. Construction does not begin officially until 1999. The most spectacular structures of the NRLA, the Lötschberg and Gotthard tunnels, would not have been possible without the efforts of thousands of workers from all over the world. Using gigantic tunnel-boring machines, they cut through the mountains five times faster than the men who built the first Gotthard tunnel around 140 years ago.

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22 May 1882

Inauguration of the Gotthard Tunnel

When it opens, the first tunnel through the Gotthard is the longest rail tunnel in the world. It is mostly financed by foreign capital.

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19 May 1906

The second tunnel

After the Gotthard, the Simplon Tunnel becomes the second rail line through the Swiss Alps. Now, western Switzerland is connected to the south.

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15 July 1913

Link through the Lötschberg

The Lötschberg line and its tunnel connect Switzerland’s western plateau with Italy.

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1924

Water replaces coal

Electrification of the Gotthard line is completed in 1924. Switzerland now gets the energy to power its trains from its own hydroelectric plants rather than coal from Prussia.

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1993

Tunnel vision

The NRLA is architecture. A minimalist formal language pervades its every construction, even down to the barely visible tunnels.

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4 October 1993

Work begins

The NRLA is far more than just the Gotthard Base Tunnel, but the first exploratory boring for the NRLA project takes place at the Gotthard.

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5 July 1999

Construction begins

Although work actually began earlier, the first blasting at the Lötschberg is regarded as the official start of NRLA construction.

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27 November 2000

Geology and surveying

Tunnel construction depends on scientific knowledge. Geology helps to find ways through the rock.

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16 April 2004

The costs

Funding for the project is hotly debated. The main issue is rising costs.

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2005

Control in the tunnel

A new control system transmits movement commands via a digital radio network to a screen in the driver’s cab.

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2 June 2006

Construction of the Ceneri tunnel

The Ceneri Base Tunnel is the third major project forming part of the NRLA. Although somewhat overshadowed by the Gotthard and Lötschberg tunnels, it will usher in a new era for regional transport in Ticino.

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6 September 2006

Breakthrough in the Gotthard

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the centrepiece of the NRLA. The first breakthrough by a boring machine takes place in the east bore.

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9 December 2007

The Lötschberg enters operation

With the opening of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, a first section of the NRLA becomes operational.

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15 October 2008

Traversing the Piora Basin

The Piora Basin, with its sugar-grain rock, threatens to endanger construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

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1 June 2014

The four-metre corridor

In order to transport the heavier loads, not only the tunnels but also other parts of the rail infrastructure need to be adapted.

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31 October 2014

Rock meets concrete

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is a high-tech product – and, like every tunnel, the result of much hard graft: by labourers, masons and concrete layers.

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1 October 2015

Tests on the Gotthard

There is a lot of technology in the new Gotthard line. Extensive tests are carried out to ensure it works properly.

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2020

Ceneri, the third base tunnel

The NRLA is more than its three tunnels, but they are convenient media labels for the project stages. Completion of the Ceneri Base Tunnel in 2020 marks the end of the NRLA.

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