Gotthard Tunnel’s reconstruction likely to begin after September ends
Clearance and rescue works in the western tube of the Gotthard Tunnel are expected to be finished by the end of September. SBB is currently working on removing the impacted wagons and locomotives, with eight railcars remaining in the tunnel waiting to be removed. After completing this task, carried out in parallel with the tunnel’s damage assessment, SBB will be able to commence reconstruction, which is not expected to be finished before 2024.
SBB mentioned that its crews work two shifts, seven days a week. So far, they have removed 22 wagons and two locomotives from the western tube of the Gotthard Tunnel. The company also underlined that some of the wagons were in such bad shape from the impact that they had to be dismantled inside the tunnel before being removed. Understandably, this adds considerable time to the overall clearance and rescue operation.
Despite SBB also carrying out damage assessment studies, it is not 100 per cent sure that reconstruction works will start at the end of September. This is because, after the assessment, SBB will need to determine the “exact nature of the damage and order the additional replacement material required” for the rebuilding.
However, since SBB has no reserve materials, it might need additional time before they are ordered and delivered. As a result, the Swiss company confirmed the initial estimations that it will take months before the damage is repaired, with the beginning of 2024 being the best-case scenario so far.
Freight traffic continues with restrictions
Simultaneously and through the Gotthard Tunnel’s eastern tube, freight trains continue operations, alas with considerable restrictions. Freight traffic recommenced on 23 August, and it works by rotation: four trains run in one direction and then are followed by four more trains running in the opposite direction. Around 90 trains cross the Gotthard Tunnel daily, with the limit at 100, almost exhausted.
An additional 15 to 20 trains per day also cross the region via the Gotthard Panoramic route, while to ensure that freight operations are impacted as little as possible, SBB has postponed the works to several other construction sites around.