Monumental Civil Engineering Project Completed

ContiTech technology has helped to build the Gotthard Base Tunnel

January 2017 The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel. ContiTech contributed to its construction in the form of a record-breaking water hose and conveyor belts for removing excavated material.

Scheduled services through the Gotthard Base Tunnel started on December 11, 2016. It’s not only the longest, but also the deepest railway tunnel in the world. Up to 2,300 m of rock lie between it and the Earth’s surface.

17 years elapsed from the decision to go-ahead with construction until completion of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Up to 2,400 people at various times worked for over a decade on the two 57-km-long tunnel tubes. After the final breakthrough it still took another five years until the sections had been fitted out with the necessary railway infrastructure systems.

ContiTech conveyor belts transport rock and rubble

The tunnel boring machine measured 410 m in length, as long as four soccer pitches laid end-to-end. It removed 28.2 million tonnes of excavated rock out of the Saint-Gotthard Massif, most of which was then returned to the mountain in the form of concrete. This is where the ContiTech Conveyor Belt Group was also involved in the project, with its conveyor belts responsible for removing the excavated material.

Belt conveyors offer significant benefits over the use of wheeled or rail vehicles when tunneling: They do not create any exhaust emissions, meaning that no additional ventilation systems have to be installed during the construction work. Tight curve radii can be coped with, during which the belts continue to be able to handle high loads. The conveyor belts can also be reused.

Record hose from ContiTech

Eddelbüttel & Schneider also contributed to the project. The ContiTech company designed and supplied a 1,520-meter water hose for the boring operations to transport the huge volumes of water needed to remove the excavated material from the tunnel.

For transport reasons this hose was manufactured in 112 lengths. Up to eight connected individual lengths were then wound onto one of 14 gigantic hose reels and dispatched to the customer by road as abnormal loads. With an internal diameter of 300 mm, this colossus weighs in at more than 75 t. “That is the longest coilable individual hose we have ever designed and wound onto a reel,” emphasizes E+S General Manager Marcus Prinz. The manufacturer of the hose was ContiTech Rubber Industrial in Szeged, Hungary.

The hose was used during tunnel excavation operations by German company Herrenknecht from Baden-Württemberg, which has relied on E+S hoses for more than 15 years. Four gigantic tunneling machines bored through the rock from both sides of the mountain – and finally met up with a deviation of only 0.00014 percent relative to each other.

Soon around 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will be passing through the tunnel daily, at up to 200 km/h – later, trains are even expected to run at speeds of 250 km/h. The journey time for people traveling between Zürich and Lugano will be cut by 45 minutes.

Gotthard Base Tunnel
Gotthard Base Tunnel

Photo: Herrenknecht AG

Gotthard Base Tunnel

Photo: AlpTransit Gotthard AG

Gotthard Base Tunnel

Photo: AlpTransit Gotthard AG