Gotthard Base Tunnel will only reopen fully in summer 2024, SBB admits
Officials have admitted that the Gotthard Base Tunnel will take much longer to reopen than previously hoped. Authorities confirmed that the freight train derailment in the tunnel caused much more damage than assumed, so normal operations will likely not resume until summer 2024 at the earliest.
Update: SBB has now admitted that the Gotthard will only fully reopen in September 2024. You can read about the latest announcement here.
Gotthard Base Tunnel more damaged than expected
At a closed-door meeting at Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), reported on by the Ticinese newspaper Corriere del Ticino, the public transport provider admitted that repairs to the Gotthard Base Tunnel would continue “at least until next summer.” While a limited service has resumed in the tunnel unaffected by the derailment, the other tube remains unusable so the vast majority of services through the mountains still have to use the Gotthard Panorama route - adding an hour to journey times.
In a statement given to the newspaper, SBB admitted that the repair work in the tunnel had been more complex than expected. The cargo train derailment - which has now been blamed on a faulty wheel - destroyed and damaged a significant amount of the tunnel on its way through, necessitating a total rebuild in some areas.
In addition to replacing eight kilometres of broken track and the 22.000 sleepers that support it, the cargo train managed to destroy parts of the tunnel's concrete structure, which will now need to be completely rebuilt. As a result, SBB doesn’t expect full services to resume until the summer of 2024 at the earliest.
Gotthard closure most painful for Canton Ticino
The announcement has not gone down well with the residents of Ticino, who along with tourists rely on the tunnel for fast rail access between the canton and Swiss cities. “Ticino will remain further away from the rest of Switzerland than it has become since 2016…it is not surprising that since the day of the derailment, Ticino tourism figures have been declining, in contrast with the trend in the rest of the country”, the Corriere del Ticino wrote.
While cargo services have resumed, the lack of regular passenger services in the Gotthard will prove an issue for anyone hoping to travel between Switzerland (and Northern Europe more generally) and Italy. As the main rail axis between northern and southern Switzerland, the Ticinese newspaper added that the longer journey times will also prove a challenge for those who use the line to commute to and from work.