The Gotthard Base Tunnel: LafargeHolcim solutions for the world's longest railway tunnel

27 June 2015

At 57 km long, the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland is the world’s longest railway tunnel and a key component of the New Transapline Railway, one of the largest environmental protection projects in Europe. Passing directly under the Gotthard Mountain, this substantial development will enable a fast, efficient link for passengers and freight moving between Zurich and Milan. By providing unique solutions and tunneling expertise to the challenges generated by such an enormous undertaking, LafargeHolcim has enabled the successful implementation of the project and created considerable value for its client.


The New Transalpine Railway (German abbreviation: Neat) is a Swiss centennial project and one of the largest environmental protection projects in Europe. Switching some of the passenger and freight transport from road to rail is expected to save environmental costs of CHF 130 million each year. The two base tunnels at the Gotthard and Ceneri are at the heart of these efforts. The Gotthard Base Tunnel will be officially opened on June 1, 2016, and regular transport will begin in December 2016. At 57 kilometers, it constitutes a new chapter in the history of significant infrastructure construction and breaks a number of world records:

  • the longest tunnel to date, with two single track tubes stretching between the north portal in Erstfeld - through Amsteg, Sedrun and Fadio - and the south portal in Bodio, each 57 km long. Taking into account all cross-passages, access tunnels, and shafts the total length of the tunnel system is almost 152 km
  • the deepest railway development with a rock overburden of 2300 m. 
Gotthard Base Tunnel scope of work

LafargeHolcim’s scope of work

For the Bodio and Fadio sections of the tunnel, LafargeHolcim provided an integrated solution with materials possessing the high level of durability required to last for the expected 100 year life span of the project. It included:

  • High-tech concrete: LafargeHolcim supplied the total volume of 1.3 million m3 for the Bodio and Faido sections of the tunnel through two RMX plants. The Group also designed the high-tech RMX and increased its setting time from six hours to eleven, doubling the transportation distance of RMX into the tunnel by rail, thus rendering the building of a further RMX plant unnecessary. Finally, in order to make it possible for trains to hurtle through the Gotthard Base Tunnel at the planned speed of 250 kilometers per hour, a customized concrete formula was devised in advance and used to create the tunnel's perfectly positioned slab track.
  • Recycled aggregates: 100% of the required aggregates for concrete come from the recycling of the excavated material, thus limiting the amount of primary aggregate resources. LafargeHolcim also installed microwave sensors and a heating system to control the relative moisture, temperature and quality of the recycled aggregates.
  • Cement: LafargeHolcim delivered 400,000 tons of cement for the project. Two types of cement have been used for the tunnel profiles at Bodio and Faido, with CEM II/A-D 52.5 R being used for the floor, inner shell of the profile, and shotcrete, and CEM II/A-L 42.5 R for the filling, bench, and shotcrete.
  • Rail-based logistics: One of the requirements laid down by the client was for at least 90% of the materials to be delivered by train. LafargeHolcim provided superior logistical capabilities through its rail linked cement plants in Siggenthal, Untervaz and Eclépens. LafargeHolcim also took part in designing special RMX rail cars traveling 30 km through the tunnel.
Gotthard AlpTransit connecting Zurich to Milan

Project benefits

Once the New Transalpine Railway is completed in 2016, it is expected to provide many benefits for the region and its inhabitants: 

  • Travel time saving: The New Transalpine Railway should allow a reduction in journey time of one hour between Zurich and Milan for passengers and goods. 
  • Additional revenues: It is expected that this in combination with additional ticket sales of CHF 78 million and the CHF 76 million in revenue resulting from goods transportation will generate an annual return of CHF 400 million a year. 
  • Environment preservation: By switching to some of the passenger and freight transport from road to rail, Switzerland is implementing one of Europe’s largest environmental protection projects. The conservation of the delicate alpine environment through reduced road traffic should reduce environmental costs by CHF 130 million annually.
© AlpTransit Gotthard AG