Results for the phase
"Planning and realisation 1992 - 2020"

Planning proceeds at full speed from 1992. Exploratory boring starts in the mountains. Construction officially begins in 1999, with miners and boring machines cutting through the rock. There is a shift in transport policy as Swiss Federal Railways attaches more importance to passenger transport. The project's greatest milestones are the opening of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel in 2007, the Gotthard Base Tunnel in 2016 and the Ceneri Base Tunnel in 2020.

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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2 February 1993

The NRLA and Europe

From the outset, business representatives and politicians view the NRLA as a project that will advance Switzerland’s integration into Europe.

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21 April 1993

Pressure from the environmental movement

The «construction project of the century» is the subject of heated debate, with politicians, administrators and environmental organisations grappling to find common solutions.

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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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13 December 1993

Spatial planning

Transport routes change the landscape. The routing of the NRLA lines thus becomes a matter of spatial planning.

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20 February 1994

Yes to the Alps Initiative

The unexpected popular vote in favour of the Alps Initiative accelerates development of the NRLA.

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20 February 1995

Green light for the network option

The Federal Council confirms the network option for the NRLA, clearing the way for construction of the Gotthard-Ceneri and Lötschberg axes.

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29 May 1995

Transport policy as financial policy

Federal Councillor Otto Stich is convinced that the NRLA will cost more than the estimated 14 billion Swiss francs.

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13 September 1995

Links to other countries

The success of the NRLA hinges on countries other than Switzerland. The amount of freight carried by rail will only increase if the Rotterdam-Genoa axis is modernised.

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1996

Rotterdam–Genoa

Expansion of the Rotterdam–Genoa freight axis makes slow progress. Italy lags behind on sea-port links.

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18 April 1996

Uri’s concerns

The canton of Uri is particularly affected by construction of the Gotthard axis. It wants the approach route to the rail tunnel to run underground. Negotiations with the Confederation run far from smoothly.

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29 November 1998

Yes to public transport funding

Funding for the NRLA is secured: over 30 billion francs are to be spent modernising Switzerland’s rail infrastructure.

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18 December 1998

Supervision

Responsibility for ensuring that the large-scale project proceeds efficiently and in accordance with the law lies with parliament’s supervisory delegation.

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1 January 1999

The SBB becomes a limited company

Rail Reform 1 aims at a gradual liberalisation of rail transport.

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14 June 1999

Adjustments go unnoticed

Almost unnoticed by the public at large, the Federal Council brings forward the previously postponed construction of the twin-track Zurich-Thalwil tunnel.

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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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8 October 1999

The big shift

With the expansion of the NRLA, goods traffic through the Alps is progressively transferred from road to rail, though more slowly than planned.

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21 May 2000

The end of the 28-tonne limit

For the first time, goods vehicles weighing forty tonnes are permitted to travel on Swiss roads. In return, the EU accepts the heavy vehicle fee.

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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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17 December 2003

Yes to the Ceneri Base Tunnel

Funding for the Ceneri tunnel is controversial. Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger argues strongly in its favour.

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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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20 March 2009

The 5.4-billion stage

How much will the NRLA cost? Initial estimates quote a figure of 12 billion francs. In 2009 Parliament approves an additional and decisive sum of 5.4 billion.

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2011

Using the tunnels to get away

The vast majority of passengers taking the train for their journey through the Alps are travelling not for business but for pleasure.

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16 May 2012

No to the Porta Alpina

It is a popular vision: the Porta Alpina to connect Sedrun and the Surselva via a lift to the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

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23 August 2013

A million visitors

During construction of the Gotthard and Lötschberg Base Tunnels, the general public have an opportunity to view the inside of the mountain. Huge numbers do so.

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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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2016

Tunnels of the world

Whose tunnel is the longest? Tunnel construction is a never-ending competition for the world record.

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1 June 2016

High-profile guests at the opening ceremony

No expense is spared at the Gotthard Base Tunnel inauguration ceremony in 2016. Merkel, Hollande and Renzi are in attendance, but not the heads of the EU.

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11 December 2016

Costs and benefits

The NRLA has cost a lot of money. Time will tell how great the economic benefits are.

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2017

43,152 trains

In the opening months, traffic in the new Gotthard Base Tunnel occasionally grinds to a halt. The SBB lay on extra trains to cope.

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1 January 2017

Mind the doors

The escape doors installed in the Gotthard tunnel are the best there is. They owe their construction to the NRLA. One major innovation led to multiple minor innovations.

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2017

The train feels the strain

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel becomes a victim of its own success. Planning for an expansion is already under way.

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12 August 2017

A vulnerable transport system

When the track subsides at Rastatt in summer 2017, traffic grinds to a halt. The collapse highlights the fragility of Europe’s rail system.

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2018

A language in themselves

Every wagon, coach and locomotive bears an assortment of cryptic symbols, letters and numbers without which the railway could not operate.

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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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2021

Whither the mountain routes?

Not everyone is a winner from the NRLA. The future of the world-famous Gotthard mountain route through the Urseren Valley and the Leventina is still undecided.

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