Today A Mile Underground In Switzerland: A Great Breakthrough

There is the Suez Canal. There is the Panama Canal. There is the Chunnel beneath the English Channel. Huge breaks in the ground, created by people.

And now there is something called the Gotthard Base Tunnel:

  • the longest tunnel in the world,
  • the largest infrastructure project in Europe.

Click Image To Expand

Only 1.80 meters of rock separating the two punctures of the east tunnel from one another, the engineers and construction workers have drilled a mile below ground in the Alps. Today, Friday afternoon, the huge drill, “Sissi,” will break the last barrier, accompanied by an underground ceremony and live broadcasts to the world. It is the first climax of a massive, years-long effort.


Meet "Sissi" The Drill

“Woo Hoo… Soooo… great! I guess,” you’re likely thinking.

Well, think about what it means to us in the U.S. and to citizens of the E.U. — or, even if it means absolutely nothing to you (and you’ve just rolled your eyes), think about it’s implications.  Wha’? …Implications? …Of a friggin’ tunnel? …Someone’s gone daft!

While the United States cannot afford to maintain its antiquated infrastructure — much less manage to coordinate ANY new advanced infrastructure projects (Georgia’s Libertarians and republicans, for example, have fought Atlanta’s progressive efforts to build a simple streetcar system on city streets and the “Beltline” light-rail and parks development ringing the city) — Europe completes its “big dig” of the longest high-speed train tunnel in the world.

Starting To Drill 3.2002: X Marks The Spot

October 2010: The Gotthard Base Tunnel runs under the Alps and is Europe’s largest infrastructure project. While testing and research started much earlier, drilling of the main tunnels began eight years ago in March 2002. When the final breakthrough is made today, it will become, at 57 kilometers long, the longest tunnel in the world.

In order to get out the message, Swiss television will broadcast the historic event in a seven-hour live program, including 200 journalists from all over the world and representatives of all major television networks. The Swiss want to show the world today that they are ingenious engineers, tunnel builders, and contributors to european progress.


A visitor stands at the Erstfeld-Amsteg section of the Gotthard Base Tunnel October 5, 2010.

The message, according to Swiss spokespersons: “In Switzerland’s mind, that we do something for Europe and for a sustainable transport policy, the reputation of serving the country and EU.”

Laying tracks in the tunnel began earlier in 2010, with up to 2600 construction persons working inside the tunnel at once. The world’s longest train tunnel is scheduled to become operational by the end of 2017. Should work continue to proceed quickly, the tunnel may even be operating ahead of schedule, by 2016.

Hey! I wonder if this project has generated any skilled labor, high-tech engineering, operations management, service industry worker, finance and accounting, or thousands of other varied jobs?

Once complete, the tunnel will reduce truck and transport traffic on Alpine passes and highways and cut the time it takes to transport goods across the European range by several hours.

Hummm… Does that increase logistical and resource use efficiencies, reduce auto emissions and other pollutants, and remove massive crowding from important roads? Wow! How novel, I think it does do so.


Construction Base Camp: Amsteg, Switzerland


Construction base camp sits in Amsteg, Switzerland where the entire project is headed by the Swiss. “Technically, it is an absolutely eye-popping project,” Kurosch Thuro, a tunnel construction expert from the Munich Technical University, noted. His colleague Markus Thewes from the Ruhr University in Bochum says, “the Swiss have set the bar so high that no one will easily be able to clear it.”


North portal of Gotthard Base Tunnel


I wonder what kind of bar today’s U.S. sets? One so low no one wants to get near it? Talk to a European or Chinese or even UAE businessperson or official, as I have, and they no longer seek the U.S. as an example to follow or bar-setter to exceed (seek the U.S. as a place to make profits, sure). In short, we are seen as a failure. Don’t think so?

Let’s see…

  • we can’t design, manufacture, or even afford a space ship to get to the International Space Station and
  • will soon be dependent for space transportation upon the Russians and the Chinese to whom we will pay taxi fare;
  • we struggle to replace ill-kept major bridges that threaten to fall down at any moment (think Oakland Bay Bridge and thousands of others);
  • we have NO actual high-speed rail systems in the U.S. and only a malfunctioning demonstration project from DC to Boston
  • … Well, forget high-tech and heavy industry projects…
  • we’ve fallen so complacent as a nation that we don’t even foreclose on our own houses properly — having learned nothing after our free-marketeer, Libertarian-oriented financial gurus decimated the world’s economy by their careless failures
  • But, really, this tops it all (and we’ll revisit this example in an upcoming Faustian urGe): we haven’t managed to replace a few tall buildings some thugs knocked down in New York City a decade ago(!)


Ground Zero_Day After Attack


Ground Zero_Decade Later



Again… The Significance of a Big Tunnel!

Wait until I show you what China has achieved, building out some land over the same “Ground Zero Decade.” Think building entire New York City_s (plural)…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s