The history of the NRLA can be split into four phases. Following the construction of the first tunnel through the Alps in around 1900, an unexpected surge in traffic levels gives rise to the idea of a new rail tunnel linking the north and south in 1961. In the third phase, the Swiss electorate votes in favour of the NRLA in 1992. Work to design and build it can then begin.

Phase 1
1882 - 1960

Growth in traffic

The first tunnels through the Gotthard, Simplon and Lötschberg mountains are built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Traffic levels then…

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Phase 2
1961 - 1983

Idea and planning

Politicians and engineers develop a plan for a new rail tunnel linking the north and south of Switzerland in the 1960s. The primary motives behind…

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Phase 3
1983 - 1992

Planning and referendum

Politicians take up the NRLA plans once again in the 1980s. Public awareness of environmental issues is rising as a result of forest dieback. The plan…

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Phase 4
1992 - 2020

Planning and realisation

Planning proceeds at full speed from 1992. Exploratory boring starts in the mountains. Construction officially begins in 1999, with miners and boring…

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