Derailment Completes the Longest Rail Tunnel of the world until next year

August 21, 2023: Swiss rail authorities said repairs to the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s deepest traffic tunnel and longest of its kind, will take several months after the extent of the damage from a recent freight service derailment was found to be “significantly greater” than initially estimated.

On Wednesday, National railway operator SBB said that 16 cars had jumped the tracks in the previous Thursday’s derailment, and some badly damaged freight cars remain stuck inside the 57.1 kilometers long tunnel.

No one was injured in the accident, but investigations have shown considerable damage in the west tube. The SBB estimated it would take several months to replace all the damaged parts of the railway system.

The operator assumes that both tunnel tubes will be available again for all rail traffic “to a limited extent” at the beginning of next year. In contrast, the undamaged east tunnel tube should be able to operate from August 23 for freight traffic.

Rail passengers traveling between north and southernmost Switzerland will be forced to take a more scenic route over the coming months.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is a high-speed railway route through the Swiss Alps. The project, which opened to enormous fanfare in 2016, took 17 years to complete and cost an estimated $12 billion.

Recognized as a feat of engineering and hailed as a “huge achievement,” the GBT is a vital thoroughfare for goods and cargo. The tunnel was created to increase local transport capacity through the Alpine barrier, ease road traffic and reduce air pollution.

“The Gotthard Base Tunnel is one of the safest in the world. The fact that such an accident could still happen hits us hard. Luckily there were no injuries, but there was a lot of property damage,” SBB CEO Vincent Ducrot told reporters on Wednesday, according to a Google translation.

“We would like to apologize for this and ask for your understanding,” Ducrot said. “The teams deployed are doing everything they can to ensure that safe rail traffic through the Gotthard Base Tunnel is possible again as quickly as possible.”

The SBB said it was aware the effects of the incident would cause “great inconvenience” for rail passengers and freight customers.

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