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Tunnels in Switzerland
The geographical localities in Switzerland are the reason why there are so many tunnels in the country. It is the Alps that form a kind of barrier between the northern and southern parts. The mountains occupy more than half of the total area and travelers can cross them only with the help of a tunnel system.
Switzerland's tunnels play an important role not only for motorists but also for rail and freight transport. In the following article, we will cover the Swiss Alpine passes and tunnels and explain what to look out for when passing through them.
Data analysis in 2020 has shown that about six million cars and trucks use the route through the Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland every year. Based on this figure, the relevance of the country's road tunnels becomes clear. The underpasses are an integral part of the road system and are of great importance not only for traffic but also for the economy.
The oldest tunnel is the so-called "Urnerloch", which was already under construction in 1708. After that, many other underpasses followed, which make Switzerland’s road network what it is today.
The "Tunnels" - as the routes are so often called in Swiss High German - connect many regions and cities.
Swiss Alpine passes and
tunnels - an overview
Switzerland is not called the land of tunnels without reason - there are about 1200 of them in total. Most of them are in operation, but some are still being built or maintained.
The following map shows that the various underpasses run right across the country. They connect Switzerland with surrounding countries, such as Italy or France. Large cities, such as Geneva, Basel, St. Gallen or Zurich, often serve as important hubs.
Swiss Mountain Tunnels
- The (shortened) List
As previously mentioned, the tunnels in Switzerland are crossed not only by motorists. Some trains, including those for freight, make their way through the country's underpasses. Therefore, when listing the Swiss tunnels, a distinction is made between road and rail tunnels.
Due to the number of tunnels, we will mention only the routes in the list that stand out because of their length.
The longest road tunnels are the following routes:
- Gotthard tunnel, A2 motorway (16,9 kilometres)
- Seelisberg, A2 motorway (9,2 kilometres)
- San Bernardino, A13 motorway A13 (6,5 kilometres)
- Großer St. Bernhard, border to Italy (5,7 kilometres)
- Kerenzerberg, A3 motorway (5,7 kilometres)
The longest railroad tunnels include the following underpasses:
- Gotthard base tunnel (57,1 kilometres)
- Lötschberg base tunnel (34,6 kilometres)
- Simplon (19,8 kilometres)
- Vereina (19 kilometres)
- Ceneri base tunnel (15,4 kilometres)
Switzerland Alpine Pass or Tunnel -
Spoiled for Choice
Due to the many tunnels and passes in Switzerland, travelers can choose between different options. After all, there is not only the option to travel to Switzerland via the motorway. One can also opt to travel by train and use one of the many railroad tunnels to do so. The decision usually depends on the duration of travel in passenger traffic.
For example, Ticino is a canton in Switzerland that is in the south of the Alps and is popular with vacationers. If you decide to travel to the region by train from Lucerne, it will take you about 2,5 hours. The journey by car takes only about 2 hours.
However, when considering this, you should always keep in mind that the travel time can be significantly extended due to certain events on the roads (traffic jams, cleaning work, etc.).
The Gotthard Tunnel in
The Gotthard Tunnel plays an important role not only for the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) but for the general traffic and
transportation system in Switzerland. The base tunnel is the longest route and provides an important connection to one of the neighbouring countries.
The longest tunnel in Switzerland
As things stand, the Gotthard Base Tunnel has been the longest rail tunnel in the world since it was commissioned in 2016. The Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Ceneri Base Tunnel form an Alpine transversal from north to south. Thanks to the connection, both people and transport goods can be moved more quickly across the country.
The road tunnel is almost 17 kilometres long. Since there is always maintenance work to be done in one section or another of the tunnel, a second tube is currently being built that runs parallel to the original tunnel. The project is scheduled for completion by 2029.
Tunnel from Switzerland to Italy
The Gotthard Tunnel is one of the connections that take vacationers from Switzerland to Italy. Strictly speaking, this involves traveling from Basel to the neighbouring city of Chiasso.
As an alternative, the San Bernardino Tunnel in the east of Switzerland is also a way to reach Italy. For the use of both tunnels, a fee in the form of the vignette is due. "Buying the Vignette for Switzerland in 2 minutes" is now also possible online.
Tunnels in Switzerland -
Caution is advised
For the journey through the mountains to proceed safely, motorists must adhere to important guidelines. As far as speed is concerned, there is a limit of 80 km/h for passenger cars.
The traffic regulations for driving in tunnels also state that a safety distance must always be maintained and that the dimmed headlights must be switched on. Even more, one should pay attention to the traffic announcements on the radio.
Since the older tunnels in Switzerland are regularly maintained and upgraded, they are considered safe connections. With an investment of about 1.6 billion Swiss francs until 2025, the routes are constantly being improved and modernized.