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Major rail projects swallow more money

Boring through the Alps is proving a costly business Keystone

Contractors building two new transalpine rail links in Switzerland say that costs are expected to be up to SFr500 million ($423 million) more than planned.

The transport ministry said that final costs for the Lötschberg and Gotthard tunnels were now estimated at SFr16.4 billion and has called for cost cutting measures.

The additional costs of the ambitious projects – aimed at helping to move north-south freight traffic through the Alps from road to rail – are due to rail infrastructure and geology.

The ministry said on Friday that at least SFr300 million in extra finances was needed on the new Gotthard route, while at least SFr100 million would be required for the Lötschberg.

“We announce these extra costs today because the law obliges the contractors to report it to the surveillance authority,” commented Davide de Micheli, a spokesman at the transport ministry.

Economy measures

“This type of announcement permits us to look for economy measures today to reduce these enormous costs,” he added.

At the Lötschberg, the installation of rails, overhead electric cables and radio and surveillance equipment is proving more complex than had been foreseen.

The rail equipment for the Gotthard base tunnel, which will be 57 kilometres long, has not yet been put out to tender. This will take place next year before a final decision is taken in 2007.

Contractors have been told to look for ways of cutting costs, particularly for the rail technology for the Gotthard rail tunnel.

According to the transport ministry, work on the two major tunnels is progressing well, with 98 per cent of the tunnel bored at the Lötschberg and 40 per cent at the Gotthard.

Last September the ministry and the contractors announced that the final costs in a worst-case scenario could be SFr1.3 billion more than budgeted.

swissinfo with agencies

98 per cent of the Lötschberg base tunnel has been bored.
It is expected to open in 2007.
At the Gotthard, 40 per cent of the tunnel has been bored.
The opening of the tunnel is foreseen in 2015 or 2016.
When completed, the Gotthard will be the longest rail tunnel in the world (57 kilometres).

Swiss voters approved the concept of the transalpine rail tunnels on September 27, 1992.

In 1998, they voted in favour of SFr30.5 billion in funds for public transport, of which SFr13.6 billion was for the two major rail projects.

The transport ministry announced that the final bill for the rail projects would be SFr15.8 billion.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR