Construction work for the Lötschberg Base Tunnel in Switzerland is progressing according to schedule. As of the beginning of September 2002 already 62% of the total tunnel system has been broken out. With the building of the Lötschberg Base Tunnel the future connection of Switzerland with the most modern and fastest rail systems in Europe is assured.

1.1 Generalities

The growth of all forms of traffic still seems unending. This puts more and more strain on the infrastructure, and capacity is rapidly becoming exhausted. Road traffic is particularly affected. To.avoid suffocating in traffic jams with their exhaust fumes and noise, Switzerland has decided to take avoiding action. It has defined a clear overall objective in transport policy: mobility must be provided in the most social, economical and ecological way possible. Switzerland therefore intends to encourage public transport using economic instruments. This means first, promotion of public transport and second, as much of the alpine freight traffic as Possible must be shifted from road to rail. The people of Switzerland have expressed their will and clearly spoken out in favour of modernising the railways and switching transit traffic from road to rail. The acceptance of the draft for the New Rail Alpine Routes (NEAT) in 1992 formed the basis for planning. With the performance-related levy on heavy goods traffic (LSVA) and the bill for modernising the railways, the legislature gave the green light in 1998 for Switzerland"s greatest ever investment programme.

1.2 Modern links for Europe

By building the NEAT, Switzerland is integrating itself in terms of passenger traffic into the successful European high-speed network. In future, passenger trains will travel over the new route at more than 200 km/h. The travelling time between Basle and Milan will be reduced by about one hour. At rail hubs attractive connections to Swiss, German and Italian rail systems are being established. The NEAT system is designed as a network solution, together with the two Lötschberg-Simplon and Gotthard axes. The network solution is based on the idea of making optimum use the existing and planned railway network (Rail 2000) as well as spreading, as far as possible, the advantages and disadvantages of a new trans-alpine transit railway over every part of the country. The new rail link through the Alps involves two new rail tunnels, one through the Lötschberg, the Lötschberg Base Tunnel with a length of 34.6 km and the other one through the St. Gotthard, the Gotthard Base Tunnel with a length of 57 km.

1.3 Financing the project

The Swiss electorate agreed to a fund of more than 30 billion Swiss francs (around 20 billion Euros) for the modernization and development of the railway infrastructure. The projects include the New Rail Link through the Alps with the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, the project of Rail 2000 (railway network), the rail network noise reduction project and linking the system to the European high-speed network.

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