Lötschberg Base Tunnel

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel (LBT) is a 34.57-kilometre (21.48 mi) railway base tunnel on the BLS AG's Lötschberg line cutting through the Bernese Alps of Switzerland some 400 m (1,312 ft) below the existing Lötschberg Tunnel. It runs between Frutigen, Berne, and Raron, Valais, and was built as one of the two centerpieces of the NRLA project. Breakthrough was in April 2005 and construction ended in 2006. The opening ceremony was in June 2007 Full scale operation began in December 2007, and the link is currently saturated because a single-track section greatly reduces its capacity.

Lötschberg Base TunnelBuilt to ease lorry traffic on Swiss roads, the LBT allows an increased number of lorries and trailers to be loaded onto trains in Germany, pass through Switzerland on rail and be unloaded in Italy. It also cuts down travel time for German tourists going to Swiss ski resorts and puts the Valais into commuting distance to Bern by reducing travel time by 50%. The total cost was SFr 4.3 billion (as of 2007, corrected to 1998 prices). This and the Gotthard Base Tunnel are the two centerpieces of the Swiss NRLA project.

Track construction in the LBT was completed in July 2006. Extensive testing then took place, including more than 1,000 test runs, which focused among other things on the use of the ETCS Level 2 system. For the second half of 2007 (after opening), only regular freight used the LBT, plus some international and InterCity passenger trains (without stops between Spiez and Brig); however, passenger trains used the old timetable (the travel time between Spiez and Brig was considered to be 56 minutes until December 2007, even if actual travel time through the LBT was only about 30 minutes).

Since February 2008, the LBT has been used for normal InterCity routes. Travel time between Visp and Spiez is about 28 minutes (about 16 minutes in the LBT). More details