Lötschberg base tunnel

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Lötschberg base tunnel
Lötschberg base tunnel
North portal at Frutigen
use Railway tunnel
traffic connection Lötschberg mountain route , TEN 24
place Bernese Oberland , Valais
length 34,576.6 m (east tube)
27.2 km (west tube, including shell construction)dep1
vehicles per day 112
Number of tubes 2 (in the final stage)
Client BLS AlpTransit AG
building-costs 4.3 billion SFr. (Price basis 1998, as of February 2007)
start of building July 5, 1999
planner BLS AlpTransit AG
operator BLS Netz AG
release June 14, 2007
The alpine punctures (yellow) of the Lötschberg-Simplon axis
NEAT Lötschbergachse.png
Lötschberg summit tunnel, Lötschberg base tunnel and Simplon tunnel
Lötschberg Base Tunnel (Switzerland)
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Frutigen 616138  /  158707
Raron 630213  /  128685

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel is a 34.6 kilometer long railway tunnel that crosses under the northern Alps on the Lötschberg between Frutigen in the Bernese Oberland ( Canton of Bern , Switzerland ) and Raron ( Canton of Valais , Switzerland) and was put into operation on June 16, 2007. This base tunnel is part of the Lötschberg - Simplon axis of the Neue Eisenbahn-Alpentransversale (NEAT), which runs from Basel via Bern - Thun - Spiez to Lötschberg and on via Brig - Simplon - Domodossola to Milan and Novara - Genoa and alongside the parallel one Gotthard axis forms a second route for the transalpine rail freight traffic of the European corridor 24 ( Rotterdam- Genoa). The Lötschberg Base Tunnel is the fifth longest railway tunnel in the world , after the Gotthard Base Tunnel , the Seikan Tunnel , Eurotunnel and the Yulhyeon Tunnel . When it opened, it was the third longest.


The two tubes run at a standard center distance of 40 m and are connected to one another by 104 crosscuts (mean longitudinal distance: 333 m).

The maximum permissible speed in the base tunnel is 250 km / h. The confluence with the Rhone Valley route is designed for 160 km / h, the Wengi Ey link for 120 km / h.

The single-track sections of the tunnel are in two different cross-sections: A circular cross-section with an inner radius of 4.28 m was provided for sections that had been created using machine driving. A mouth profile was provided for sections with blasting . The free cross-sectional area is 45 m².

Expansion stage

The Lötschberg base tunnel

The project was designed as a railway tunnel with two single-lane tubes 40 meters apart and connected every 333 meters by cross tunnels. After the start of the project, it was decided in 1996 for financial reasons to carry out the construction in stages. The two-pronged expansion will remain suspended until new funding is available.

In 2017, the tunnel was fully used for both passenger and freight traffic. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the commissioning of the Lötschberg base tunnel, the government representatives of the cantons of Bern and Valais called for the tunnel to be further expanded. With a full expansion of the 14 kilometers, which were only built in the shell, the capacity of the tunnel could already be increased considerably. In 2014, Parliament already gave the green light for the relevant planning work as part of the 2025 rail expansion phase. The expansion of the section that has already been excavated - which would allow every half hour to reach Valais - is firmly planned, with full expansion being an option.

Eastern tube

The eastern tube between the Frutigen and Raron portals has been completely excavated, fitted with railway technology and is in operation.

West tube

The west tube is partially in operation in the current stage and is divided as follows:

  • Between the Frutigen portal and the Adelrain splitting point , the western tube has been completely excavated and equipped with railway technology (length: ≈1 km). From here the west tunnel leads over a high-speed switch into the east tunnel.
  • The west tunnel was not excavated between the Adelrain splitting point and the Mitholz service stop (length: ≈6 km)
  • Between the Mitholz service stop and the Ferden Nord splitting point, the west tunnel was excavated and left in the shell (length: ≈14 km).
  • Between the Ferden Nord splitting point and the Raron portal, the west tunnel was excavated and the railway technology expanded (length: ≈14 km). The two railway tubes are connected to one another via a high-speed switch.

Tunnel sections

  • The Steg window gallery (length: ≈3.5 km) was excavated and left in the shell.
  • The lane changes Mitholz Nord and Mitholz Süd were left in the shell and serve to connect the east tube to the part of the west tube that has yet to be excavated.
  • The Ferden Süd lane change remains in the shell and serves to connect the east tube to the west tube, which is still to be expanded with railway technology.
  • The lane change Steg also remains in the shell and serves to connect the east to the west tube and further to the Steg window gallery.

Further routes / sections

In addition to the Lötschberg base tunnel, a number of other infrastructure projects were completed by the opening in June 2007 :

  • The Tellenfeld Intervention Center is an approximately 350 m long opening with an escape staircase that is almost as wide from the cut directly in front of the northern tunnel portal for evacuating travelers in the event of an incident.
  • A four-kilometer new line between Wengi-Ey and the Tellenfeld intervention center bypasses the Frutigen train station. The settlement area of ​​Frutigen is crossed under the 2.6 km long, two-tube Engstlige tunnel . Only the eastern tube has been expanded with the railway technology, the western tube remains in the shell. The tunnel was built using the cut-and-cover method, the Frutigen train station was extensively rebuilt.
  • The approximately 500 m long Widi tunnel leads from the Tellenfeld intervention center to Frutigen station.
  • A connection between the portals in Raron with the Brig - Montreux railway line , including two parallel bridges over the Rhône, 554 and 817 m in length.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile of the Lötschberg base tunnel and Lötschberg top tunnel

The north portal of the tunnel at Frutigen in the Kandertal is 776.5  m above sea level, it rises to 828.2  m to the apex and falls to 654.2 m to the southern portal at Raron in the Rhône valley  . This means that the highest point of the tunnel is 411 m lower than the old Lötschberg tunnel from 1913. With a peak height of 828 meters, the Lötschberg base tunnel formed together with the even lower Simplon tunnel until the Gotthard base tunnel opened on June 1, 2016 the lowest in service transalpine railway line. The longitudinal slopes in the base tunnel are between 3 and 13 per thousand.


The tunnel cuts through the Wildhorn and Doldenhorn ceiling and the Aar massif .

Geological cross-section



The idea of ​​a base tunnel on the Lötschberg came up relatively late in the history of the new railway through the Alps . The decisive factor here were less technical than political considerations, as documented in various publications by the Graubünden Council of States Luregn Mathias Cavelty (see web link). These developed against the background of the lack of a continuous road connection between the Upper Valais population center Brig / Visp and the rest of German-speaking Switzerland. (On the northern ridge of the Alps, between the Grimsel and Col du Pillon pass roads, there is a good 100 km wide gap, which is only interrupted by the car transport through the Lötschberg tunnel between Kandersteg and Goppenstein .) As the Rawil expressway N6, which was planned in the planning of the motorway network, in 1986 Citizen protests and because of geological problems, the idea arose to raise the Lötschberg car transporter to motorway standards with the help of a base tunnel. These and other considerations, primarily motivated by regional policy, ultimately led to the so-called network variant: Instead of a (more or less) continuous new line along a single axis (specifically: Gotthard), two base tunnels (Gotthard and Lötschberg) were to be built, which in return would result in savings in expansion which would allow access routes. The original Neat bill for the Lötschberg axis, approved by the Federal Council in 1989, by Parliament in 1991 and by the people in 1992, provided for a new line between Heustrich or Frutigen and the Brig / Visp area, as well as car loading facilities in Heustrich and Steg VS.

On December 12, 1986, the founding meeting of the LBT committee took place in Brig. October 17, 1990, the canton of Valais proposed a Y-solution with tunnel exits in Mundbach and Susten . In May 1991 a compromise proposal for a Y-solution according to Raron and Mundbach follows.


The planning work began in the late 1980s. After detailed discussions, the Swiss government decided in mid-May 1989 on the course of the NEAT. In addition to the expected decision in favor of the Gotthard base tunnel, it was also decided to build the Lötschberg base tunnel. The estimated total costs for the Lötschberg base tunnel were 1.7 billion Swiss francs. On December 1, 1992, the federal government released a first commitment loan of CHF 250 million for the tunnel.

On June 8, 1993, BLS AlpTransit AG was founded as a wholly owned subsidiary of BLS and began working on the detailed planning. On October 4, 1993, the Kandertal exploratory gallery and the Mitholz window gallery were subverted , followed by the signing of an agreement between the federal government and the BLS on December 8 for the construction of the tunnel. On February 28, 1994, BLS submitted the preliminary project for the tunnel to the BAV.

From summer 1995 the realization of the NEAT in the planned form was questioned. A postponement of the realization of the Lötschberg base tunnel was also proposed. In the meantime, on October 3, the EVED granted permission to tackle the Ferden tunnel tunnel, while the planning approval procedures for the north and south sections were postponed.

On April 24, 1996, the Federal Council decided to tackle the Gotthard and Lötschberg base tunnels in a different time frame. Under the title FinöV , a new financing model for the NEAT and other upcoming rail projects was designed. On the Lötschberg, the planned new access roads ( Niesenflanken and Mundbach tunnels), the car transport via the base tunnel and the continuous double-lane expansion of the same fell victim to this approach . Instead, only about a third of the penetration was expanded with two operational tubes and a further third was broken out with two tubes, but one tube was left in the shell and served as a rescue tunnel. The temporary waiver of car loading via the base tunnel also made the plan for a second south portal at Steg obsolete, which, in addition to the car loading , would also have enabled a direct connection with the railway line towards Central Valais and Lausanne .

In mid-2002, various parties suggested that the west tube between Mitholz and Frutigen should also be excavated as part of the first construction phase, as the realization of the 6 km long section would be much more expensive later. The Federal Office of Transport rejected this proposal at the time and is examining whether it will be included in the Neat 2 projects.

The total tunnel length of the first expansion stage, which was ultimately implemented, is 88.1 km (including access tunnels), the length of the main tube from portal to portal is 34.6 km.

On June 3, 1997, planning permission for the Ferden window tunnel was granted. On November 5 of the same year, the Federal Council approved a second loan tranche for 55 million francs for the Ferden and Mitholz window galleries. The invitation to tender for the Ferden window tunnel follows on February 13, 1998.

On December 4, 1998, the large building lots Base Tunnel North and Base Tunnel West as well as the Steg window gallery were put out to tender. Planning approval for the southern section of the base tunnel was issued on June 25, 1999. The northern section was awarded on February 15, 2000, as was the mandate for public relations. On May 14, 2002, the Engstlige Tunnel, the last major construction lot of the project, was awarded. On June 21 of the same year, the railway equipment was awarded to a working group.


On April 12, 1994 the first groundbreaking took place in Frutigen on the 9.6 km long Kandertal exploratory tunnel, which today serves as an escape tube. In addition, 27 exploratory boreholes were driven into the mountain.

The start of construction on the Mitholz window gallery was celebrated on July 25, 1994, and construction began on the Kandertal special gallery on August 10 of the same year. The 3.0 km long Ferden (Goppenstein) window gallery started construction in 1997, Niedergesteln (Steg) followed in 1999, Raron (2000) and Frutigen (2001) were added later.

In June 1996, preliminary structural work began on the Ferden window gallery. The excavation at the Kandertal special tunnel was completed on February 4, 1997; The excavation at the Ferden window tunnel ends on September 18, 2000.

From the end of 1998 the award procedure for the large tunnel construction lots and the construction of the intermediate attacks were started. Overall, the mountain was attacked in five places: In addition to the portals at Frutigen and Raron, also from the access tunnels at Mitholz, Ferden and Steg (Niedergesteln).

The first blast in the tunnel was carried out on July 5, 1999 at the Mitholz base . Another intermediate attack took place near Ferden , where a 4.1 km long access tunnel with a 12% gradient was excavated down to the level of the base tunnel. Down there, at the so-called “foot point”, the large construction site (and later the operations center) “Ferden” was also built for the further drive to the north. The Mitholz gallery was completed in autumn 2000. The machine advance was started on September 22, 2000.

On May 1, 2001, construction work began at the Ferden base. At this time the assembly of the second tunnel boring machine began in front of the south portal in Raron; their tunneling began on September 28, 2001.

The newly built bridges over the
Rhone river

From the south, a tunnel boring machine also excavated the 3.2 km long "Fensterstollen Steg ", a single-track junction from the tunnel in the direction of Sion with its own portal at Niedergesteln three km west of the main portal. In the first phase, however, this tunnel section was only completed in the shell for cost reasons. That's how long you have to change trains for a connection down the valley in Visp. Overall, only the eastern tube from Raron and the "Fensterstollen Steg" and the subsequent western tube to the "Ferden base" were excavated with tunnel boring machines; the rest of the tunnel had to be excavated using blasting. This work went on for years without any major problems until, completely surprisingly, coal was found . Dealing with this carbon layer delayed construction by five months. At the main portal east of Raron, two 820 and 556 m long bridges were built over the Rhone , which ensure the connection to the SBB -Rhonetal route and their construction allows passage at speeds of 160 km / h. At Frutigen im Tellenfeld, an intervention center for emergencies was built in front of the north portal and the 2.6 km long Engstlige opencast tunnel was built in the Wengi area near Frutigen .

An excavation with a diameter of 9.4 to 9.6 m was made in the machine tunneling. During blasting, the excavated area was between 62 and 65 m².

On May 2, 2002, half of the tunnel was excavated. The first breakthrough took place on December 13, 2002 between Steg / Niedergestein and Ferden (km 38.647). On January 29, 2003, the excavation of the Adelrain switch cavern was ended. In the same year there were three breakthroughs in the tunnel: in May between Mitholz and Frutigen, in October between Ferden and Raron and in December in the east tunnel between Frutigen and Mitholz.

The construction work on the tunnel system had to be repeatedly interrupted briefly due to geological problems. Between the end of August and mid-October 2004, tunneling in both tubes was suspended due to renovation work.

On February 21, 2005, construction work on the Steg window gallery ends.

After a construction period of six years, the first breakthrough was made in the west tube on March 15, 2005 at 5:35 p.m. Since this tube will initially remain largely in the shell, this breakthrough was initially kept secret and not celebrated any further. The last breakthrough in the eastern tube was officially announced and celebrated on April 28, 2005. After not all detonators had gone off during the first blast at 10:52 am, a subsequent blast cleared the way shortly before 12 noon. In addition to 1,100 project participants and guests on site, the event was broadcast live on Swiss television. This was followed by a ceremony in an ice rink in Kandersteg.

The last excavated material was removed on March 16, 2005. A total of 16.6 million tons of material was excavated. 40 percent could be reused in the construction of the pipes, for example as concrete aggregate . In Raron, a processing plant for excavated material with a volume of around ten million tons was built, in Mitholz a plant for around six million tons. Around 12,000 segments were produced in Raron .

From autumn 2003, parallel to the ongoing advance, the interior of the tunnel was completed, and from December 2004 the installation of the technical systems, including the installation of the slab track in the west tube from December 6, 2004 . The last section was handed over to the technical equipment in summer 2006. Around 230,000 tons of technology were installed in the entire tunnel system. Already in 2004, the installation of the roadway as well as the control and safety technology began in sections.

Preparations for the technical equipment began in Raron in autumn 2003. By relocating a large part of the technology from the control centers to containers and cabinets along the pipes, the installation of the technology could begin around a year earlier - the containers were set up in a factory hall in Bern as early as spring 2004. As the first section, the technical equipment of the Rhone bridges began in September 2004, in December of the same year in the south of the tunnel. At the beginning of October 2005, the first containers were brought into the tube, to the Lötschen operations center. In the spring of 2006, the installation of the railway systems was largely completed, and at the beginning of July the last of the 136 containers was brought into the mountain.

A total of 57 km of track were laid. 1500 structures accommodate 60 km of contact lines and earthing. A total of 1,390 km of cables were laid for the tunnel and 133 video cameras were installed. 3200 fire detectors were connected to 20 fire alarm centers, 420 hand-held fire extinguishers with removal controls were installed and 110 rooms were provided with automatic fire extinguishing systems. There are 56 km of handrails and 2500 emergency lights in the tunnel.

During the construction period, an area of ​​2,500,000 m² was required; In the operating phase, around 970,000 m² of space is required on a permanent basis. As part of the planning approval process, 360 owners of 740 parcels had to be included. There were a total of 650 objections.

On nine days of the open construction site , four to ten thousand visitors visited the tubes. An information center was visited by around 75,000 people between 2001 and 2006. About 2000 groups took part in guided tours in the tunnel.

Five people died while excavating the 88 km of tunnels. Memorial plaques on both portals were erected in memory of them.


The first locomotive drove into the tunnel from the south portal for test drives on May 6, 2006. On July 24, 2006, the golden nail was symbolically hammered in and the last piece of track was laid, and in October 2006 the last meter of contact wire was pulled in. The test drives began on June 1st, 2006. A comprehensive test of the train control system and other technical equipment was carried out in four shifts. The first electrical test drive took place in the southern section of the tunnel on June 6th. On December 1st, the entire length of the tunnel was open to traffic as part of test drives. On December 16, 2006 at around 00:30, the ICE-S reached a speed of 281 km / h during approval runs in the tunnel. It surpassed the Swiss rail speed record of 244 km / h from 1996. The record was increased on November 8, 2007 when a shortened series ICE-1 in the tunnel during ETCS acceptance runs reached a speed of 288 km / h. h reached.

Numerous operational tests and emergency exercises were carried out between March 15 and June 14, 2007. On June 14, 2007, the Federal Office of Transport issued the operating license. On July 15th, BLS Alptransit handed the structure over to the federal government , which in turn passed it on to BLS AG as operator. 1200 invited guests attended this ceremony, which was followed by an opening ceremony for the general public the following day. This attracted around 30,000 people, most of whom also took the opportunity to drive through the tunnel with special trains.

Between June 16 and December 8, 2007, a commercial run-up took place. During this time, around 6,500 trains had passed through the tunnel, plus around 2,500 test drives.

On December 7, 2007, the Federal Office of Transport granted approval for the tunnel to be fully operational as scheduled from December 9. The start of the scheduled train traffic of this rail- Alpine transversal took place after the timetable change on December 9th, 2007. Initially, the maximum permissible speed was 200 km / h.


By the end of April 2008, around 12,000 trains drove through the tunnel. 98 percent of the trains ran as planned on the base route, 2 percent were diverted via the mountain route, mostly freight trains outside their scheduled time window. On peak days, the tunnel has already reached the capacity limit of 110 trains per day. According to the BLS, disruptions were primarily due to the rolling stock.

Since the end of 2008, trains have been allowed to run in the tunnel at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour.


The estimated final costs (as of December 31, 2006, 1998 price basis) are CHF 4.3025 billion. In 2007 investments were put at around 4.4 billion francs. Of this, 3.4 billion was accounted for by shell construction, 0.4 billion for rail technology and 0.6 billion for tunnel safety and safety systems. The maintenance costs (without renewal) amount to CHF 13.7 million per year. At around 240 francs per meter of track per year, the maintenance costs are around three times more expensive than the open route, in particular due to the significantly larger number of maintenance-intensive facilities. The cost of any equipping the shell of the middle section of the second tube (15 km) is estimated at around CHF 400 million.

After resizing in 1996, the financial requirement was given as 3.214 billion francs, excluding reserves, inflation, VAT and interest. In addition, a reserve of 15 percent was approved, further cost increases were to be covered by loans; both instruments should be covered by commitment credits. After changes to the planned tunnel, the credit line was increased by CHF 1.097 billion to CHF 4.3 billion (excluding inflation, VAT and interest). The loan was increased by CHF 861 million to finance inflation, VAT and interest. Until the final project settlement in 2009, costs of 5.3 billion Swiss francs are expected. In 2005, total costs of 4.2 billion euros were assumed. The unexpected geological problems at the Wildi Tunnel in mid-2004 also contributed to the price increases, which made it necessary to tighten the construction schedule considerably.

The construction costs are covered by the Finöv Fund , which was approved by the people on November 29, 1998 in a national referendum vote with an approval of 63.5 percent and from which Bahn 2000 is financed, among other things . The main source of income for this fund is the performance-based heavy vehicle charge (LSVA) , which was also passed in a referendum in the same year and has been levied on all truck journeys in Switzerland since 2001. In addition to the financing of the rail infrastructure, the aim is to approximate the principle of the true cost of road transport (while at the same time exempting rail transport from this requirement). In addition, the fuel duty and VAT were increased slightly.

Further expansion

On August 17, 2015, BLS AG published the order for the planning of a full expansion. The aim is to upgrade the double lane between Ferden and Mitholz as well as the option of fully upgrading the Ferden – Frutigen section. The planning work should start in 2016. The planning funds were provided by the Federal Assembly as part of the FABI template, offer step 2025 . The expansion is not included in the expansion step 2035 . The Canton of Bern criticized the Federal Council for this decision, which delayed the expansion by at least eight years. The approximately 330-strong Lötschberg Committee criticized the decision in January 2018. With the continuous double lane, the capacity of the tunnel could be more than doubled, all freight trains could run through the mountain and a half-hourly passenger service between Bern and Brig could be made possible. Parliament is expected to discuss the expansion as part of the next expansion of the rail infrastructure in 2030/35, starting in 2019. BLS is working on the project planning in order to be ready for implementation in the event of a positive decision. In June 2019, Parliament voted in favor of the further partial expansion. To this end, the tunnel is to be closed for weeks or months in 2022.


Current timetable

Since the timetable change in December 2007, around 50 passenger trains ( EC , IC and IR and until December 2009 also CIS and EN ) have been using the tunnel for long-distance passenger transport . Tilting trains of the type CIS ETR 610 from SBB and FS (formerly Cisalpino AG ) as well as SBB Re 460 with standard car IV or IC2000 car are usually used. The SBB ICN , which run individual relief trains , and the ETR 470 , which were withdrawn from Lötschberg at the end of 2009, can also be used. The maximum speed in the tunnel is technically 250 km / h, but remains limited to 200 km / h in commercial operation. There are hourly intercity connections from Zurich to Brig and back with stops in Bern, Thun, Spiez and Visp as well as two-hour train pairs Basel – Brig, some of which continue to Domodossola or Milan . The car transport with cycles of 7.5 to 30 minutes (with up to 180 trains per day) remains on the mountain route.

About 70 out of 110 freight trains use the base tunnel, mostly heavy trains going south; the remaining 40 or so freight trains continue to run through the old Lötschberg tunnel. In addition, around 37 regional trains per day, the so-called Lötschberger , will continue to run over the mountain route. The freight trains running through the base tunnel have a maximum length of 750 m with a trailer load of up to 3250 t.

Around 110 trains per day run through the tunnel (as of 2013). Here are headways achieved of up to three minutes.

Thirty BLS employees look after the tunnel around the clock.

Operating concept

The operating concept provides for a capacity utilization of 96 percent:

  • 77 trains per day through the existing summit tunnel plus the car loading trains
  • 110–120 trains per day through the new base tunnel, of which
    • 42 passenger trains
    • 70–80 freight trains

If possible, several trains in the same direction of travel enter the single-track section one behind the other. Due to the short buffer times, there is an extremely low tolerance for delays. Trains with a delay of more than seven minutes are to be diverted via the previous Lötschberg tunnel or have to wait for the next possible way through the tunnel. A lane change from the west tube to the east tube is possible at 160 km / h.

Until at least 2020, the tunnel will be operated by the mixed- economy private railway company BLS Netz AG . BLS's operational management extends in the north to Gümligen , in the west to Belp , Schwarzenburg and Zweisimmen , in the east to Interlaken and in the south to Brig and before Sierre and Domodossola .

The maintenance concept provides for a regular total closure on Sunday night, and in the southern section the closure of a track the following night. Additional maintenance intervals are planned over four weeks in summer.


The new tunnel tubes shorten the length of the route between Spiez and Brig by around 10 km; the maximum gradient of the Lötschberg north ramp drops from 27 to 15 per thousand. In addition, the base tunnel bypasses a particularly winding section of the mountain route (with a minimum curve radius of 300 m). The main advantage for freight trains is lower energy consumption and the saving of additional locomotives due to the lower gradient. Double traction will still be necessary in some cases, v. a. for heavy freight trains heading north to overcome the steep gradients in front of the Simplon tunnel .

The completely renovated Visp station, which is newly connected to the Lötschberg route, replaces Brig as a transfer hub between long-distance traffic and the connections to Zermatt / Saastal and Central Valais. Travel time savings of up to one hour result in traffic between outside Switzerland and these destinations. The best travel time between Bern and Brig has been reduced from 79 to 64 minutes.

The transit freight trains reach the Lötschberg base tunnel from Germany and France via the Basel - Olten - Bern - Thun - Frutigen route and from Raron to travel to Italy via the Visp - Brig - Simplon tunnel . The Lötschberg axis joins the Simplon line Vallorbe - Lausanne - Domodossola with the 20 km long Simplon tunnel in Upper Valais (base line at Raron, mountain line in Brig) . The transit axis Basel – Bern – Italy, known as the Lötschberg-Simplon axis, becomes a quasi-flat railway (with gradients of at least 15 per thousand), but only in the north-south direction. In the opposite direction, it remains a mountain railway, as the Simplon southern ramp, which is on Italian territory and operated by SBB, has a gradient of 25 per thousand.

In order to be able to drive through the tunnel, several hundred SBB vehicles were converted, for example with fire extinguishers and an emergency brake requirement .

Accidents and technical problems

Due to a software error in the host computer, operations on August 22, 2007 and other days were severely impaired.

The first accident in the Lötschberg base tunnel occurred on October 16, 2007 at 03:40 a.m. Due to a (now fixed) software error in the ETCS line control center, the first two axles of a locomotive on the Rolling Road between Freiburg im Breisgau and Novara derailed at a switch. The train was then braked abruptly. According to BLS AG, two of the loaded trucks had loaded potentially dangerous goods . As a result of the accident, the tunnel was closed all day.

In November 2007, then an error in a new version of the widely used ETCS on-board software was Alstom discovered that prevented trains in the event of a controlled reversing (so-called. Reversing had been stopped) for evacuations to its designated place. At the end of 2007, the Federal Office of Transport approved temporary operation, even without a functioning reversing function, on the condition that passenger trains must be accompanied by additional train attendants and (in the event of a turn in the tunnel) be provided with driver's cabs at both ends (which refers to the compositions used through the Lötschberg base tunnel apply anyway). In addition, in addition to other measures, the simultaneous use of the double tubes in the same direction of travel (to overtake freight trains by passenger trains) was prohibited. With the completion of the retrofitting of all 450 affected vehicles, the measures no longer apply at the beginning of 2008.

Due to a widespread GSM-R radio failure, the tunnel was only partially accessible for two hours on April 2, 2013.

Water ingress

On February 6, 2020, water mixed with mud flooded both pipes up to 30 cm high. The traffic was temporarily stopped. After cleaning work, one tube could be released the next day. On March 14, 2020 there was another water ingress, so that all connections were again suspended for an indefinite period. On March 15, 2020, a tube could be reopened. The second tube was put back into operation on April 24th. After another water ingress, one of the two tubes was closed again for several hours on April 30, 2020.

After the two water inrushes, the Lötschberg tunnel has to be extensively renovated. In the east tube, the concrete shell is opened over a length of 10 to 15 meters and a new cavern is excavated behind it. A sedimentation basin is built into it, into which the muddy water from the karst zone above the tunnel is discharged. The sand can settle. The purified water is then fed into the drainage system of the tunnel and discharged. According to the BLS, the construction work will result in a suspension of several months and costs of 10 million francs. These are taken over by the federal government as maintenance measures as part of the performance agreement. ETH tunneling engineer Heinz Ehrbar criticizes the approach. The BLS have still not been able to determine the exact cause of the water ingress. The hundred-year service life cannot be guaranteed in this way.

Railway technology

A total of 1,450 electrical cabinets were installed in the cross passages and in the control centers.

Train protection / control system

The tunnel is controlled from twelve unmanned operations centers; they are set up in pairs, each for the east and west tubes, in order to enable the tubes to be controlled independently of one another. The operations centers are monitored and controlled from the operations center of BLS Netz AG in Spiez and two on-site control centers (VOLS) in Frutigen and Raron. In order to optimize operations on the Lötschberg-Simplon route, BLS was given control of the Sion - Domodossola (December 2006) and Gümligen (near Bern , May 2007) feeder lines.

The train protection takes place via two electronic interlockings . Only ETCS Level 2 is used as the train control system ; initially according to SRS 2.2.2 . There are only light signals in the portal areas. A fall-back level with conventional signals was initially planned (status: 2006). A Radio Block Center and 230 Eurobalises were installed for ETCS . The length of the 50 train track sections is 0.6 to 1.8 km.

The SAHARA protocol is used for communication between the interlockings and the RBC .

In 2018, 0.14% of trains caused a malfunction related to ETCS, in 2019 0.12%.

The ETCS area is accessed from the north via the Engstlige tunnel and Frutingen station, and from the south via the Rhone valley bridges at Visp station. basically above the ETCS level 0 . With the reversing mode , the train protection system enables you to drive backwards at up to 80 km / h in emergencies without changing the cab; This speed is reduced to 40 km / h around 1500 m in front of the tunnel portal. Functions for particularly quick evacuation of the tunnel are also provided.

A control system, the so-called automatic function (AF), ensures that train runs are optimized, tracks train runs and prevents overcrowding and stops in the tunnel. In addition to minimizing a weighted sum of departure delays and makes proposals for resolving foreseeable conflicts. The control system also checks the tunnel suitability of the trains, including the equipment with ETCS Level 2. The three-part control system is connected to the ETCS control center (RBC) as well as various electronic and relay interlockings from various manufacturers and serves the Spiez operations center. It handles signal box operation and display, traffic tracking, train control and timetable data processing and also has interfaces to train departure indicators, radio track indicators, automatic voice output, neighboring control systems and hot-runner location systems . The system is based on the Iltis control system, which was put into operation in 1997, was tested from December 2006, put into operation together with the tunnel in December 2007 and then further optimized.

Communication between the train and the control center takes place via GSM-R . The communication system also includes a telephone system with 437 extensions, including emergency telephones at all cross passages and cross connections.

Slab track

As the operator of the tunnel, BLS followed the development at SBB in choosing the track system and installed a slab track from the LVT / Sonneville system , which was designed for a line speed of 250 km / h. The threshold distance is 60 cm. With block inserts made of polyurethane and changes to the rubber shoe (influence on vertical subsidence of the individual blocks), the dynamic behavior of the slab track of the LVT / Sonneville system could be improved. The Ferden high-speed switch is converted by eleven drives.

Traction current

The Lötschberg base tunnel is supplied with traction current from the Frutigen (already existing), Mitholz (newly built) and Gampel (expanded) substations . The overhead line ( cross-sectional area 120 mm²) in the tube at a height of 5.85 m corresponds to the UIC C profile and allows a maximum speed of 250 km / h, with two raised pantographs ( double traction ) at least 15 m apart, another 160 km / h. For the first time in the world, the interaction of overhead contact line and pantograph was tested in a narrow single-track tunnel at speeds of over 160 km / h. The contact line was designed for currents of up to 2000 amperes, the overcurrent limit is 1000 amperes. The substations, which are 28 km apart, allow the supply of six freight locomotives at the same time. A total of 60 km of contact wire was laid, and post-tensioning systems were installed at intervals of 1000 m.

For the electrical consumers in the tunnel, 21 transformer stations with a total output of 10 MW are distributed over the tubes. These provide 230/400 V voltage. A total of 1390 km of cables were pulled into the tunnel.

A 132 kV traction power line runs through the tunnel. As a second line between the power plants in the Valais and the main consumers in the Central Plateau the cable is to bring more stability to the Swiss railway power grid. The line, which is dimensioned for a voltage of 132 kV and a continuous current of 2000 A, connects the Mitholz and Gampel substations and thus closes a railway power ring within western Switzerland. Due to technical problems, however, the line could initially only be operated intermittently with scheduled interruptions. Up to the final commissioning of the line, Valais traction current was routed via Vaud to German-speaking Switzerland . After installing attenuators to avoid mains resonance, the 132 kV cable was finally put into operation at the end of 2010.

Tunnel ventilation

The temperature in the tunnel is up to 35 degrees Celsius, the humidity up to 80 percent. 44 refrigerators and 396 convection coolers ensure constant environmental conditions for the technology. The tunnel is adequately ventilated during regular operation by train traffic. In Mitholz and Ferden, supply air centers with an air flow rate of 150 or 200 m³ / s have been set up to ensure the fresh air supply during maintenance work or in emergencies. In emergencies, an exhaust air center leads polluted air to the outside. If necessary, a heavy gate can close the tube (and thus the air supply) at one point. 173 motorized sliding doors are attached to cross passages, cross connections, emergency exits and escape tunnels and can be opened remotely if necessary. In this case, the maximum permissible speed is reduced to 40 km / h.


A drainage system leads water to the outside, separated into mountain and dirty water. Mountain water is led into the Rhone (in the south) and the Engstlige (in the north). At the north portal of the tunnel in Frutigen, the tunnel water that escapes and is too warm for direct discharge into the Engstlige is used for the Frutigen tropical house, which opened in November 2009 . With the heat obtained from the water, young sturgeons are grown in warm water fish tanks and tropical fruits are grown in greenhouses. A test facility has been in operation since the construction phase of the tunnel began. The mountain water cooled in this way from the tunnel is then fed into the Engstlige.
The contaminated tunnel sewage is directed into retention systems, checked for pollutants and, if necessary, retained.

Rescue concept

At Ferden, in the two-tube area of ​​the tunnel, an emergency stop was set up to rescue passengers in emergencies. Passengers can disembark on 473 m long platforms and use six exits to access an escape tunnel. In the event of a fire, a special ventilation system can blow in 400 m³ of air per second and extract 500 m³ / s of smoke above the source of the fire into a 380 m high ventilation shaft using fire detectors and seven individually controllable suction openings. There is also an operating stop at the Mitholz base, which can also be used to evacuate trains in emergencies. A BLS maintenance and intervention center was set up in Frutigen, and SBB maintains another intervention center in Brig.

The rescue concept provides that trains reach the emergency stops in or the intervention points outside the tunnel. If this is not possible, passengers can reach a parallel tube via cross tunnels (a cross connection every 330 m). In the fully developed area of ​​the tunnel (between Raron and Ferden), evacuation will then take place by means of a "replacement" train in the opposite tube. In the area in which the shell of the west tube was only removed (between Ferden and Mitholz), those affected are evacuated with buses from the Postauto AG Oberwallis . The buses drive into the tunnel in Ferden and leave it in Mitholz. In the section between Mitholz and Frutigen, in which only the east tube has been excavated, Mitholz minibuses will enter the tunnel and leave it at the Helke portal via a small service tunnel in Frutigen. All those affected who are evacuated by road vehicles and the fire-fighting and rescue train are brought to the Frutigen intervention center, which, in the event of damage, is converted into a first-aid center by the Frutigen ambulance service. The evacuations by "replacement" train or fire and rescue train lead to the Valais. A BLS fire-fighting and rescue train was stationed in Frutigen, and another SBB in Brig. The rescue concept provides that the emergency services (company fire brigade, local fire brigades, etc.) reach the damage site within 45 minutes.

facts and figures

South portal at Raron VS
Gauge 1435 mm ( standard gauge )
Length of the tunnel 34.6 km
Start of work July 5, 1999
Length of the entire tunnel system 88.1 km
Excavation with tunnel boring machines 20%
Eruption with explosions 80%
Total weight of the railway equipment to be installed 170,000 t
Base tunnel costs 4.3 billion SFr. (Price basis 1998, as of February 2007)
Project participants 2,500

See also


  • U. Briegal: Preliminary exploration and prognosis of the base tunnels on Gotthard and Lötschberg: reports from the Zurich symposium 15.-17. February 1999 . AA Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam u. a. 1999, ISBN 90-5410-480-5 .
  • BLS Alp Transit AG (Ed.): Lötschberg Base Tunnel. From the idea to the breakthrough . Stämpfli Verlag, Bern 2005, ISBN 3-7272-1174-1 .
  • BLS Alp Transit AG (Ed.): Lötschberg Base Tunnel. From the shell to the rail tunnel . Stämpfli Verlag, Bern 2007, ISBN 978-3-7272-1185-0 .


  • Harald Kirchner: By train over the Lötschberg . SWR / arte 2009 45 minutes.

Web links

Commons : Lötschberg base tunnel  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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