Traveling the Gotthard route is always amazing. Whether you're using
your car or the train, you'll be impressed by all those bridges,
tunnels, railway lines, roads, towering mountains, rivers, avalanche
protections, lovely hamlets...
The roads over and through Gotthard are
remarkable. Looking back in Airolo to the Gotthard massif the scars in the
environment may hurt, on the other side, the road connections were
and still are important and impressive.
After intense discussions and a lot of
lobbying, in 1866 the construction of a railway line was decided.
treaties with the neighbors in Germany and Italy, the work began in 1873.
1882 the line was opened between Immensee (Kanton Zug) and Chiasso.
Because costs were massively higher then estimated, renegotiations between
the Swiss, the German and the Italian financiers were necessary and some
lines had to be reduced from double track to single.
Shortly after commencing the traffic, the whole line was modernized,
electrified and all the way upgraded to double track. 1920 Electricity was
produced by hydro electric power plants in Piotta with water from Ritomsee
and Amsteg with water from Pfaffensprung (below Wassen). Already in
1922 trains between Luzern and Chiasso run on electric power.
The design of tracks, bridges and tunnels needed a lot of engineering
skill, some hard negotiations, international agreements. Technically, at the time of construction of the railway line, many things have never been
The main tunnel was the longest ever built. In order to keep
the slope below the acceptable 3 %, helical tunnels (360°
tunnels with 300m radius and 3% gradient) were built. The diagram below
shows that the ascent from Erstfeld to Goeschenen is about 630 m over a
distance of about 19 km. From Airolo to Biasca it's a descent of 800
m on a distance of 36 km.
177 workers lost their life (most of them were Italians). Near the Airolo
railway station there is a memorial.
Presently project NEAT is under way: a new fast-train line,
where the major chunk is a new train tunnel of 50 km length between Bodio
and Amsteg, reducing the need for climbing up and down the mountain considerably.
Since December 2016 the tunnel between Amsteg and Bodio is in
operation. Passenger-Trains are passing the hole in less then twenty
Minutes at a speed of 200 kmh. Freight-trains run at 100 kmh.
The good News is, that the old Line with the Gotthard Tunnel
Goeschenen-Airolo is still in operation. Presently, in Erstfeld one
has to change trains.
The next important milestone will be the Monte Ceneri tunnel (opening
in 2020). Then
Switzerland will have a "flat-trail-route" from Basel down to
On the Italian side, the project towards Genoa is under way. In a few
years, there will be a European Flat-Railway-Line from Rotterdam to Genoa.