Saint Gotthard Pass | Railway Tunnel | Road Tunnel – Switzerland | A place of beauty, history and records.

Saint Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, together with Saint Gotthard railway tunnel and the road tunnel, represent a major European transit point connecting Northern and Southern Europe through the Saint Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the Swiss Alps.

Saint Gotthard Pass

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer – Click on it

Saint Gotthard Pass is a relatively low altitude (2,100 m, or 6,900 ft) passage point in the Gotthard Massif, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It has been used over the last hundreds of years as a crossing point for people and goods transportation. To the north lie the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, then the Rhine basin and Germany. To the south, the Ticino Valley with the Swiss Canton bearing the same name, followed by the valleys of Northern Italy.

Although the pass is entirely located on Swiss territory, it is part of both a geological and a linguistic continental divide.

The pass crosses the European continental watershed that separates the Mediterranean Sea basin from the North Sea Basin. This division also reflects on languages spoken by inhabitants of both sides: while both Swiss citizens, south inhabitants (Canton Ticino) speak Italian, while north ones speak German (Canton Uri).

This separation is found throughout all the Alps.

Nowadays Gotthard Pass is mainly a leisure summer destination where enjoying sight of mountains’ majesty and refreshment from heat. It is closed to traffic in winter. A few small lakes lie on pass plane.

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel is a 15-kilometer (9 miles) tunnel built inside Saint Gotthard Massif at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level.

It was excavated in the 1870s and opened to rail traffic in 1882. Its construction claimed the lives of approximately 200 people, including the engineer leading construction, Louis Favre.

The tunnel took over traffic from the pass since its completion and has served as a major connecting passage between northern and southern Europe to this day. It is mainly crossed by passenger and freight trains that reach Italy from Switzerland and from Germany.

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

The new Saint Gotthard Base Tunnel

Due to ever-increasing freight traffic over the last decades, a new railway tunnel is undergoing construction at a lower altitude (between 310 and 550 meters above sea level – or 1024 to 1800 ft).

The new tunnel, with its 57 km (35 mi) length is the longest tunnel in the world. While raw excavation was completed in 2011, traffic is scheduled to start in 2016.

Trains will reach a top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph) inside the tunnel, cutting travel time for passengers of one hour between Milan and Zurich.

Saint Gotthard Road Tunnel

Following car traffic increase in the 1960s and 1970s, a road tunnel was constructed at approximately the same level of the old railway tunnel, and opened in 1980.

With its length of just over 16 km (10 mi), Gotthard road tunnel was the longest road tunnel in the world at its completion and it is now the third.

The tunnel features a heavy traffic load. Since there is only one lane for each direction and a safety distance is mandatory for vehicles, traffic lights are placed at both ends in order to dilute traffic inside the tunnel. This can result in massive traffic jams outside the tunnel, that can reach almost 20 km (12 mi) in length in summertime.

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 - Click to enlarge

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 – Click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Saint Gotthard Pass is no longer used for transportation, both Gotthard railway tunnels and road tunnel will see their traffic increasing in the following years, gaining importance for trans-Europe transportation.

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