Gotthard derailment: Normal services will not resume until September 2024
After a leaked meeting revealed that the damage to the Gotthard Base Tunnel was worse than imagined, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has now confirmed that passengers will have to wait even longer before the tunnel will fully reopen. The public transport provider announced that normal services will not resume in the Gotthard until September 2024.
Full service will not resume in Gotthard until September 2024
At a press conference on November 2, SBB CEO Vincent Ducrot revealed that full services will not resume in the Gotthard Base Tunnel until September 2024, after a freight train derailed in the tunnel on August 10. At a closed meeting in October, reported on by the Corriere del Ticino, SBB had suggested that repairs to the tunnel would last until “at least next summer”, but they have now confirmed that the damage to the tunnel is worse than imagined.
SBB head of infrastructure Peter Kummer said that they “want to move forward as quickly as possible”, but the tunnel cannot be repaired at speed. Ducrot added that instead of just replacing the parts that were broken by the derailment - 20.000 sleepers and several safety and control systems - they have “decided to completely renew the seven kilometres that were damaged. Everything is replaced. As a result, the repair work is taking far longer than originally expected.”
Swiss repair workers brave the heat of the tunnel
Up to 80 workers from SBB and other companies are working to repair the damage, under what was described by the company as “difficult climatic conditions” - temperatures in the tunnel can reach 40 degrees celsius. Current estimates suggest that the cost of the damage is between 100 and 130 million Swiss francs.
As it is the main rail access between major Swiss cities, northern Europe, Ticino and Italy, SBB said that they are looking at ways of speeding up repairs, and are working closely with the Italian authorities to solve the problem. Barring a few select services on weekends, all passenger services will still be re-routed via the Gotthard Panorama Route, adding up to an hour to journey times.
SBB hopes for limited services through Gotthard from December
Ducrot said that the “tunnel is a centrepiece” for Swiss railways, so the company will be looking to add more passenger services as soon as possible. They hope that from Monday to Thursday, freight trains will use the undamaged tube of the Gotthard, while Friday to Sunday will see a mixture of cargo and passenger services. These new trains will be announced this November and will start to run from SBB’s timetable change this December.
For people who commute from Ticino to the rest of the country, SBB said they are working to modify the timetable at peak times to better suit working hours. “We are doing everything we can to get the tunnel fully operational again as quickly as possible,” Ducrot concluded. For all the latest updates, check out the SBB website.