EventsThe Gotthard Base Tunnel – 60 years in planning – 20 years in realization

The Gotthard Base Tunnel – 60 years in planning – 20 years in realization

Heinz Ehrbar

Alptransit Gotthard AG, Lucerne, Switzerland

Event from
19 April
Photo from Heinz Ehrbar



The Gotthard has achieved mythical status in Switzerland. Developments over the centuries and important historical events right up to the founding of Switzerland are an inextricable part of this region.

Ideas for a base tunnel were first developed in the 1930s. In the early 1970s the idea for a railway base tunnel instead of the autobahn tunnel was again taken up – without success.

The obvious negative effects of road traffic in the narrow alpine valleys after the opening of the road tunnel in 1980 demanded the construction of a railway base tunnel.

In a decision-making process that is arguably only possible in a direct democracy the project was approved in principle in 1992 and in 1998 stable financing was ensured. Main work commenced in 2002 and on 15 October 2010 the tunnel was broken through. Completion is expected towards the end of 2016.

This long history affords us unique insights which will prove invaluable for other major projects. 

Heinz Ehrbar

After studying at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, where he graduated as a civil engineer in 1980, Heinz Ehrbar took over the supervision of various international and national projects, including hydroelectric plants in Iceland and Peru, for instance San Gaban II where his expert involvement was required for tunnel, shaft and cavern construction. Further tunnel projects eventually led to Heinz Ehrbar taking over the job of chief construction officer at the AlpTransit Gotthard AG in 2006.

Heinz Ehrbar is a regular speaker at international congresses relating to tunnel construction, including the ITA World Tunnel Congress in Vancouver, the China Tunnel Congress in Beijing or also the Brazilian Tunnel Congress in Sao Paolo.