Lötschberg Base Tunnel

This article is about the 2007 railway tunnel. For the 1913 railway and car transport tunnel, see Lötschberg Tunnel.
Lötschberg Base Tunnel

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel together with the century-old Simplon Rail Tunnel form the western part of the Alptransit project
(yellow: major tunnels, red: existing main tracks, numbers: year of completion)
Official name German: Lötschberg Basis Tunnel
Line Lötschberg Line
Location Traversing the Bernese Alps in Switzerland
Coordinates 46°34′41″N 7°38′56″E / 46.578°N 7.649°E / 46.578; 7.649 (Lötschberg Base Tunnel, northern portal)46°18′32″N 7°49′55″E / 46.309°N 7.832°E / 46.309; 7.832 (Lötschberg Base Tunnel, southern portal)
Start Frutigen, canton of Bern, 780 m (2,560 ft)
End Raron, canton of Valais, 654 m (2,146 ft)
Work begun 5 July 1999
Opened 14 June 2007
Operator BLS
Traffic Railway
Character Passenger, Freight
Length 34.5766 km (21.4849 mi)
No. of tracks One single-track tube for 20km, two single-track tubes for 14km
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge)
Electrified 15 kV 16.7 Hz
Operating speed up to 250 km/h (160 mph)
Highest elevation 828 m (2,717 ft)
Lowest elevation 654 m (2,146 ft) (south portal)
Grade 3–13 
The north portal in Frutigen
South portal near Raron

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel (LBT) is a 34.57-kilometre (21.48 mi) railway base tunnel on the BLS AG's Lötschberg line cutting through the Bernese Alps of Switzerland some 400 m (1,312 ft) below the existing Lötschberg Tunnel. It runs between Frutigen, Berne, and Raron, Valais. Breakthrough was in April 2005 and construction ended in 2006. The opening ceremony was in June 2007.[1][2] Full scale operation began in December 2007.[3]

To Bern, Switzerland
8.3 Reichenbach im Kandertal(706 MSL)
10.4 Wengi-Ey junction
11.3 Wengi
13.5 Frutigen(779 MSL)
Engstlige (~2.600 m)
Widi (~220 m)
To Brig by old route
Tellenfeld control office
North portal of base tunnel (34,577 m)
Mitholz(western tube partly constructed)
Ferden Nord(both tubes in
operation south of Ferden Nord)
Steg junction(unfinished)
South portal of base tunnel (34,577 m)
Rhone bridge(554 and 817 m)
To Lausanne
To Zermatt

64.9 Visp
To Brig, Italy


Built to ease lorry traffic on Swiss roads, the LBT allows an increased number of lorries and trailers to be loaded onto trains in Germany, pass through Switzerland on rail and be unloaded in Italy. It also cuts down travel time for German tourists going to Swiss ski resorts and puts the Valais into commuting distance to Bern by reducing travel time by 50%. The total cost was SFr 4.3 billion (as of 2007, corrected to 1998 prices). This and the Gotthard Base Tunnel are parts of the Swiss AlpTransit initiative.

Construction and usage

Track construction in the LBT was completed in July 2006. Extensive testing then took place, including more than 1,000 test runs, which focused among other things on the use of the ETCS Level 2 system. For the second half of 2007 (after opening), only regular freight used the LBT, plus some international and InterCity passenger trains (without stops between Spiez and Brig); however, passenger trains used the old timetable (the travel time between Spiez and Brig was considered to be 56 minutes until December 2007, even if actual travel time through the LBT was only about 30 minutes).

Since February 2008, the LBT has been used for normal InterCity routes. Travel time between Visp and Spiez is about 28 minutes (about 16 minutes in the LBT).

Completion status

Due to the soaring costs of the AlpTransit initiative, funds were diverted to the Gotthard Base Tunnel; and the LBT is only half finished. The fully complete LBT will consist of two single track bores side by side from portal to portal, connected about every 300 metres (984 ft) with cross cuts, enabling the other tunnel to be used for escape.[4]

Currently from South to North a third of the tunnel is double track, a third single track with the second bore in place, and a third with only one single track tunnel, the parallel exploration adit providing emergency egress. The construction is divided into 3 phases with phase 1 completed to date:

Phases 2 and 3 may be done together. Completing the LBT is estimated to cost 1 billion Swiss francs. The project also includes two parallel bridges over the Rhône river in canton Valais, the 2.6 km (1.6 mi) Engstlige tunnel (built with cut-and-cover method; the 2 tracks are separated by a wall).


About 110 trains per day use the LBT, and 66 use the old mountain tunnel, because of the single track. Of the 110, 30 are passenger and 80 are freight, including both intermodal freight transport plus heavy freight trains. Heavy freight trains up to a maximum weight of 4,000 tons and a maximum length of 1,500 metres have to use the LBT, as they cannot use the existing mountain track.

There are about 21 km of single track without passing loops; trains more than 7 minutes late are either routed via the old line (incurring further delay) or must wait for the next available timetable slot in the LBT.

Travel speeds

Geothermal energy

Main article: Geothermal energy

The warmth of the water flowing out of the tunnel is used to heat the Tropenhaus Frutigen, a tropical greenhouse producing exotic fruit, sturgeon meat and caviar.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Klapper, Bradley S. (2007-06-15). "Swiss Open World's Longest Land Tunnel". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  2. "Huge Swiss tunnel opens in Alps". BBC. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  3. TSR Journal 15/06/2007, édition du 19h30
  4. TSR "Gotthard: From Dream to Nightmare" "Temps Present" 24 May 2007

External links

Wikinews has related news: Swiss finish drilling world's longest overland tunnel
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