First rail maintenance vehicles handed over for Gotthard Base Tunnel

Photo: Harsco.
Photo: Harsco Corporation.

Harsco Rail Europe has handed over the first maintenance vehicles to Swiss national operator SBB for use in the Gotthard Base Tunnel –  the world’s longest railway tunnel.

Delivery of the first six base vehicles on December 15 marked the first steps in completing an order for 31 rail maintenance vehicles signed in 2013 between the two parties.

Harsco Rail Europe’s head of maintenance vehicles Andreas Göbbels said he was particularly proud of the order because of the fact it is “technically complex and large-scale”.

The tunnel poses exceptional challenges with respect to safety and reliability as everything inside the tunnel, including the roof, tracks and contact wires, must be well-maintained to ensure that services run smoothly.

The base vehicles weigh 80 tonnes and can be either powered by electricity or a combination of diesel and electric power.

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One of the base vehicles. Photo: Harsco.
One of the base vehicles. Photo: Harsco Corporation.

Besides a crane, the base vehicles are also equipped with an air-conditioned personnel module that includes a kitchenette and a combustion toilet. The base vehicles can be operated not only from the driver’s cab but also via remote control.

As part of the vehicle order, Harsco Rail Europe – a subsidiary of the American rail vehicle company Harsco Corporation – is also supplying some additional module flat wagons which can all be coupled with the aid of an automatic wagon coupling system to form maintenance trains that are 300-400m long.

Beneath the wagons are the largest lifting platforms in Switzerland but also the unique mobile sealing gate. This gate can seal the tunnel for maintenance work to prevent wind turbulence.

Andreas Göbbels added: “Due to the tunnel capacity utilisation, maintenance works can only be carried out during the three night shifts beginning on Saturday – so everything has to run like clockwork. Many different jobs have to be done at the same time and multi-functionally at different sites. With our highly specialised vehicles we can help the teams to do this.”

At the handover ceremony, the six base vehicles that were delivered were named after the communities of Erstfeld, Wassen, Airolo, Ambri-Piotta, Giornico and Biasca, which are all located along the old north-south route across the Gotthard. All 13 will be named after railway stations from local communities.

The trains will be based at the maintenance and intervention centres in Erstfeld and Biasca.

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