Friday, October 15, 2010

Switzerland-Italy Gotthard Rail Tunnel: Trucks, Trains and Trees

"Swiss complete world's longest tunnel"
UPI (October 15, 2010)

"Workers completed drilling Switzerland's 35-mile-long Gotthard rail tunnel -- the world's longest tunnel -- breaking through rock Friday under the Swiss Alps.

"Crews cheered as a 10-meter (33-foot) drillhead ripped through at 2:15 local time, the BBC reported. The landmark event was broadcast live on Swiss television.

"The tunnel, which has been under construction for 14 years, is not expected to open for service until at least the end of 2016. Trains are expected to rush through it at speeds of up to 155 mph and travel times between Zurich, Switzerland, and Milan, Italy, will be slashed by as much as an hour and a half...."

Saving the Alpine Trees?

Freight traffic overland between Switzerland and Italy runs to about 3,000 heavy vehicles a day. Some news services pointed out how bad this was for "the environment." Quite aside from exhaust fumes, the Lemming figures that many a tree has been cruelly crushed when a truck slid off the mountain roads.

My guess is that all that truck traffic was a little hard on the roads, too - and none to calming for the drivers during winter. Mountain roads and all that.

On the other hand, with high-speed underground train traffic picking up the cargo traffic: those drivers may be looking for new jobs soon.

Good for Trees, Good for People: In the Long Run

The Lemming could declaim about heartless technocrats dooming families of the helpless truck drivers to starvation or something: but why bother?

First, diverting traffic through that tunnel makes sense on several counts: safety; efficiency; and, of course, 'the environment.'

Second, it's there, and I don't see Switzerland and/or Italy plugging the thing up. Not after 14 years spent building the thing.

Of course, the Lemming could demand (there's a picture: some guy in Minnesota making demands of two European nations) that the oppressed truck drivers be given jobs, sitting in the new trains.

Sort of like railroad firemen rode on diesel locomotives for a while, here in America. They were there to shovel coal that wasn't there into boilers that diesel-electric locomotives don't have.

And that's another topic.

Seriously? The Gotthard rail tunnel is a big deal
  • A little longer than the Chunnel
  • Tunneled under mountains
    • Where some geologist experts said it couldn't be done
  • Provides freight service between Switzerland and Italy that's
    • Faster
    • Safer
      • Probably
    • 'Better for the environment'
As for the people who drive trucks over the mountains? Finding new lines of work can be - challenging. But maybe they'll find jobs that are better than wrangling trucks over icy, steep mountain roads.

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