Shorter transit times and increased capacity for freight.
With the completion of the NRLA project, Europe will have a modern, highly-efficient North-South railway corridor through the Alps – an eco-friendly alternative to road-borne freight and passenger traffic.
Switzerland is keeping its promise by creating up-to-date rail infrastructure with more capacity for international freight traffic. It is also a contribution towards climate-friendly mobility in Europe. The Ceneri base tunnel represents the final component of NRLA and completes the level-track rail route through the Alps: it brings north and south closer together. After a transitional period, six freight trains per hour will be able travel through the Gotthard base tunnel in each direction when full operations start up; four trains will continue through the Ceneri to Chiasso and two will run via the Luino line.
At the same time, Switzerland has increased the corner height on the Basel to Chiasso and Luino rail corridor to 4 metres to accomodate semitrailers and containers. This will help give greater impetus to the transition.
From December 2020, freight trains of up to 2,150 tonnes will be in operation from Basel to Chiasso – two locomotives are required for this weight. Until mid-2021, the maximum weight of trains in dual traction in the south-north direction of travel to Basel will be limited to 1,650 tonnes due to construction work in Chiasso; 750m-long trains of up to 2,000 tonnes will be possible thereafter. Around 30% of train paths between Basel and Luino will be available for 750m-long trains in 2021. 750m-long trains will be able to operate on all train paths from 2022.
There are 210 train paths available for freight traffic every day on the transit axis. Since the final construction work in the Gotthard Base Tunnel is still ongoing, the full capacity of 260 train paths will only be reached at the end of 2022. Nonetheless the available train path capacity is sufficient to meet the current demand. After an initial phase, the daily capacity will be continuously increased to more than 3,000 semitrailers per day. With every semitrailer transported by rail, SBB Cargo saves 0.3 tonnes of CO2 . That corresponds to around 60,000 balloons filled with CO2. When the capacity is fully utilised, 890 metric tonnes of CO2 could be saved every day.
The NRLA and the 4-metre corridor will add greater efficiency, reliability and transport capacity to the Rotterdam-Genoa rail corridor. Freight trains will reach their destination around two hours faster, making rail freight more competitive than road transport.