The Gotthard Base Tunnel won’t be fully operational until next summer
The west tube of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is currently unavailable due to a disastrous freight train derailment last August. Despite the still-usable east shaft being reserved for rail freight, the Federal Swiss Railway said that repair work will continue at least until next summer.
The timetable for the full reopening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel has been extended since the works in the damaged tunnel seem to be more complicated than expected. The freight train that derailed on Thursday 10 August 2023 did more damage than previously assessed. Apparently, other than eight kilometres of tracks and over 22,000 sleepers, the accident caused the destruction of the rail ballast as well.
A massive obstacle for Italy
This is a significant hiccup especially for Italy. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the main link connecting the country to Switzerland and, thus, to the rest of central and northern Europe. Currently, the east tunnel can accommodate about 100 daily trains, which equals two-thirds of the total usual traffic. It now seems that this solution will remain in place at least until summer 2024.
The summer of 2024 is also when the Frejus Railway is planned to be reopened. This line, which is the main border crossing between Italy and France, has also been closed since Sunday 27 August after a landslide in Saint-André à La Praz, roughly 20 kilometres from the border. In other words, Italy is currently deprived of two of its main international rail connections.
These two events are having an enormous negative impact on the Italian rail freigh sector. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the main line for combined transport, while the alternative routes to France are scarce. Some companies, including Captrain Italia, are on a quest to find viable option to still be able to move freight on the railways. This, however, entails a few problems, from finding available capacity to having the proper licenses to, for example, re-route trains to France via Switzerland.