Costs rise for transalpine rail tunnels

Miners have a lot of work still to do Keystone

The government has confirmed that two new transalpine rail links will cost SFr16.3 billion – SFr440 million more than the previous revised figure.

This content was published on April 1, 2005 - 10:43

The transport ministry said on Friday that difficult geological conditions were partly to blame for the rise in costs.

The Gotthard and Lötschberg tunnels are key to the Swiss government’s goal of moving north-south freight traffic through the Alps from road to rail.

The Lötschberg is due to open in 2007, while the 57km Gotthard base tunnel – where only 44 per cent of the rock has been excavated – will not open before 2015.

Earlier this month, AlpTransit, the company carrying out the Gotthard tunnel work, rejected calls to cut costs, saying they were unrealistic.

"The higher costs for the construction project result mainly from the long planning and construction time of more than 25 years," AlpTransit said in a statement.

"[There are] correspondingly changing expectations regarding state-of-the-art technology and safety. However, the resulting improvements in the project also cause higher costs."

Tunnel safety

In February Switzerland’s largest trade union, Unia, demanded safety improvements on tunnel construction sites, following the deaths of several workers.

Since work on the two base tunnels started in 1996, 11 people have died. Unia said it feared rising costs and time pressure might also put workers’ safety at risk.

The two companies involved in the transalpine rail project – the operating company BLS Lötschbergbahn and AlpTransit – have denied that there is a problem with safety.

Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger will take part in a ceremony at the end of April to celebrate the breakthrough of the Lötschberg tunnel.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The construction of the Gotthard and Lötschberg rail tunnels will cost SFr16.3 billion ($14 billion).
The Lötschberg tunnel is due to be opened in 2007, and the Gotthard not before 2015.
When completed, the latter will be 57km to become the world's longest railway tunnel.

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