The Ceneri Base Tunnel Opens – The NRLA Is Complete

The President of Switzerland, Simonetta Sommaruga, together with Member of the Swiss Federal Council Ignazio Cassis and the President of the Council of State for Ticino, Norman Gobbi, officially opened the Ceneri Base Tunnel on 4 September.

This marks the completion of the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA), which was approved by Swiss voters in a mandatory referendum in 1992. The major infrastructure project strengthens Switzerland in its goal to drive modal shift. Passengers have a faster north-south connection and Ticino will get an S-Bahn thanks to the Ceneri Base Tunnel. The CEO of SBB, Vincent Ducrot, and the CEO of AlpTransit Gotthard AG, Dieter Schwank, both emphasised the significance of the NRLA for Switzerland and railway traffic in general.

Aerial view Ceneri Base Tunnel
Aerial View of the Ceneri Base Tunnel portal

The Ceneri Base Tunnel is the final component of the New Railway Link through the Alps following the opening of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel in 2007 and the Gotthard Base Tunnel in 2016. The NRLA is at the core of the important European freight rail corridor connecting Rotterdam with Genoa. Therefore more freight could be moved by rail rather than road. The NRLA will also allow more frequent passenger services north to south and Ticino will have an S-Bahn that will halve travel times between the towns of Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona.

Simonetta Sommaruga:

“The NRLA was the impetus for a more intelligent modal shift policy, that we can still be proud of today. It was a brave decision and it was far-sighted: for our country and for the protection of the Alps. Thanks to the Ceneri Base Tunnel our modal shift policy is getting another boost.”

Ignazio Cassis emphasised the significance of the NRLA for Ticino, Switzerland and Europe as a whole thanks to its ability to allow more environmentally friendly freight movements.

Ignazio Cassis:

“With this future-oriented structure we are affirming our membership to the European continent, which has been and continues to be a fundamental condition of our affluence.”

A delegation from AlpTransit Gotthard AG, which built the tunnel, also attended the opening ceremony, as did members from SBB. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the opening ceremony had to be smaller.

When the Swiss president cut the ribbon, the Ceneri Base Tunnel was officially open to rail traffic. A freight train subsequently headed south through the new tunnel. The speakers at the event had travelled from the south using a Ticino S-Bahn and from the north using an SBB long-distance train. The opening ceremony thereby demonstrated the important role of the Ceneri Base Tunnel for regional passenger services, long-distance services and freight operations.

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