The NRLA is of considerable economic importance: by the time the project is complete, some 24 billion francs will have been spent on planning and construction, with a huge impact on construction, safety and vehicle technology. Then there are the actual rail operations: traffic passes through the Gotthard Base Tunnel for the first time on 11 December 2016. The income from the NRLA will not cover the costs of construction and operation, but the project provides the basis for economic investments in tourism, commerce and industry. It is generally assumed that there will be a positive correlation between transport infrastructure expansion and economic development; however this assumption requires the regions to make an economic contribution of their own.
« Because it is impossible fully to demonstrate economic profitability, there is a need for an overall societal perspective. »Heinz Diemant, SBB Finance Department, Speech on economic viability at the briefing conference on the Gotthard base line, 15.03.1974