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Brand new Albula rail tunnel opens in the Swiss Alps

Brand new Albula rail tunnel opens in the Swiss Alps

When it comes to building roads and railways, the Swiss philosophy is if you can’t go around it, you must go through it. Now, a brand new tunnel has taken its place alongside the Gotthard and Gubrist, with the opening of the second Albula tunnel on June 9.

Albert Rösti opens the new Albula rail tunnel

On Sunday, Transport Minister Albert Rösti declared the new Albula tunnel open. The 5,8-kilometre tunnel connecting the towns of Preda and Spinas in Canton Graubünden took 10 years to complete, with workers having to blast away and clear 250.000 cubic metres of rock to create the passage.

From now on, trains will be able to pass through the tunnel at 120 kilometres an hour, and according to official estimates from the Rhaetian Railway, up to 15.215 trains and 1,5 million passengers will use the line every year. The project cost the Swiss government 407 million francs to build. 

Albula tunnels have a long and famed history

The tunnel is not the first to be built through the mountain, the first Albula tunnel was completed in 1903. It is seen as an engineering masterpiece, with over 1.300 workers using pickaxes and drills to create the passage - the tunnel is now part of the Rhaetian Railway UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, much like the original Gotthard, the first project was not without its human cost, with over 2.000 accidents and 16 deaths being reported during the tunnel’s construction

Once completed, the tunnel connected the region to the Swiss public transport network, cutting journey times between the Engadine and Thusis to a fraction of what they were by stagecoach. However, in 2006 a safety inspection revealed that the old tunnel was in dire need of repair and renovation, hence why the new tunnel was constructed.

With the new tunnel up and running, the first Albula tunnel will be repaired and new safety passages built for travellers. The old tunnel is expected to re-open at some point in 2026.

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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