After train derailment: New gate for the Gotthard


The longest tunnel in the world is not spared accidents: just two days ago a car caught fire in the Gotthard and last August a train carriage derailed and broke through the lane-change safety gate between the railway tracks. A new gate is currently being installed in the Gotthard Base Tunnel

Gilgen Door Systems is on site with its partner and yesterday supplied the material required to automate the lane-change gate. As with the original gate, Gilgen is providing a powerful drive and precise control system with the highest safety precautions. These are also necessary, as the derailment of the goods train with 32 wagons last year proved.

Aerodynamic challenges

The safety gate to be replaced is one of four. Each serves as a separation in the lane change tunnels and consists of huge, double-leaf fire protection gates: a single leaf weighs a whopping nine tonnes. The lane-change tunnels ensure that trains can change tunnels in the event of an emergency or that individual tunnel sections can be separated for maintenance work.

In addition to the four huge gates, Gilgen worked with Elkuch Bator and Hodapp to develop drives for a further nine gates and 389 doors. Due to the special conditions, only a few concepts from other tunnelling projects, such as the Lötschberg Tunnel, could be adopted.

The so-called cross-passage and emergency stop doors, which connect the two tubes, have to withstand enormous pressure. Trains travelling through push large masses of air in front of them, which creates excess pressure, as explained by aerodynamics.

Gotthard world record project

The lane-change gate is being replaced almost eight years after the 17-year Gotthard Base Tunnel construction project went into operation. When it opened in December 2016, the 57-kilometre-long Swiss tunnel overtook the world's longest tunnel to date: the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

Every day, 65 passenger trains and 260 goods trains can travel through the Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Alps. This enables Switzerland to shift a large proportion of freight traffic from Italy from road to rail. Goods from Milan can reach Zurich within three hours. Gilgen is aiming for the new gate to be completed quickly at the beginning of summer so that rail traffic can continue to run smoothly.