Dr. Renzo Simoni, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alp Transit Gotthard Ltd. which manages the Gotthard Base Tunnel project, gave two presentations in Tokyo this summer in commemoration of the friendly ‘takeover’ of the title “the world’s longest tunnel” from Japan’s Seikan Tunnel this June.
The first event, organized by the Culture and Public Affairs section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan, was held at the 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT where an exhibition on civil engineering is currently taking place. Dr. Simoni, who holds a doctor degree in civil engineering from ETH Zurich, introduced how the Gotthard Tunnel project had developed and then engaged in a panel discussion with Dr. Katsuji Akita who had been involved in the construction of the Seikan Tunnel as well as architect Mr. Hirohsi Nishimura.
The full-house audience consisting of journalists and industry experts listened enthusiastically. They also raised questions such as: why did Seikan Tunnel employ a double-track railroad system while Gotthard Tunnel has a single-track system? The answer: Seikan Tunnel had cost restraints with construction starting in the early 1960s when Japan was still more of a developing economy.
The Gotthard Tunnel chose its dual tunnel structure for safety reasons. Dr. Simoni disclosed that the Alp Transit had reached out to their Japanese counterpart to exchange opinions prior to making the decision. Ms. Naoko Aono, a journalist specializing in art and architecture served as the moderator of the panel discussion.
The second occasion was at the Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (SCCIJ) luncheon. Dr. Simoni gave a more detailed presentation on the challenges and innovation of developing the project. The tunnel runs 57 km through the Alps. The maximum overburden, or the peak of the mountains above the tunnel that makes excavation even more challenging, was 2,300m at Piz Vatgira.
The first question from the audience here was of what had happened to the large amount of excavated rocks. To find out, visit Lake Uri, Luzern in Switzerland or here!