Transalpine Ceneri tunnel welcomes first passenger service

The tunnel connects the southern Swiss towns of Camorino in the north and Vezia in the south Keystone / Alessandro Crinari

The 15.4km Ceneri Base Tunnel, which is intended to increase freight traffic, was put into operation for passenger traffic on Sunday.

This content was published on December 13, 2020 - 14:18

The Eurocity train EC 311 left Zurich main station at 6:33am and reached Chiasso at 8.55 am passing through the tunnel. Passengers were greeted by pre-recorded announcements by Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga. The tunnel, which officially opened on September 4, marks the completion of the gargantuan Alpine rail link project after 28 years of construction. It was the last piece of the puzzle, preceded by the Lötschberg (34.6km) and Gotthard (56km) tunnels. 

With the Ceneri Base Tunnel, journey times between French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino will be significantly reduced, the Swiss Federal Railways said this week. The Lausanne-Lugano journey will take 4 hours 14 minutes (18 minutes less than before), while the Neuchâtel-Lugano journey will be reduced from 4 hours to 3 hours 32 minutes in 2021. Zurich to Milan is now a journey of 3 hours 17 minutes, compared to 3 hours 40 minutes previously.

European rail freight will also benefit from the new tunnel. For example, it is possible to save up to two hours in freight transport between Rotterdam, the Dutch port city, and Milan.

Resumption of cross-border trains

On Wednesday, Switzerland and Europe were able to reach a compromise that allowed limited passenger services between the two countries. Rail services were temporarily halted when the Swiss rail operator said that its train personnel do not have the capacity to carry out specific onboard Covid-19 safety checks ordered by the Italian government. 

The compromise agreement involves giving the Italian police the right to carry out sporadic checks on trains, including on the Swiss side. To cross the border, it will also be necessary to accept a temperature test, to have a certificate that authorises travel and to present a negative Covid-19 test result. However, proof of a negative Covid-19 test will not be required for cross-border workers.

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