From 23 August 2023, around 90 freight trains will be able to travel through the east tube of the damaged Gotthard base tunnel, reported SRF. Combined with an additional 20 freight trains continuing to run on the old panorama route will mean a total of 110 freight trains will be able to move through central Switzerland daily.
Swiss Rail said that work to access the east tube of the tunnel was progressing at full speed. A badly damaged lane change gate has been successfully replaced by a mobile one, said the rail company. On 10 August 2023, the gate was badly damaged when a freight train derailed.
Passenger travel is also expected to improve. Although passengers still have to travel on the older slower panoramic route, passenger capacity has been increased by running longer trains. Schedules for passengers continue to be updated.
The opening of the east tube will bring significantly more flexibility for freight traffic, according to Swiss Rail. However, in order for all goods to be transported, freight trains would still have to be diverted via the Lötschberg-Simplon tunnel and Brenner route, said Swiss Rail.
The derailment is the most serious accident since the railway link went into operation seven years ago, said Swiss transport Minister Albert Rösti. Fortunately, no one was injured, he said. The safety of train passengers must have priority, he said on Radio SRF. Having alternatives routes through the Lötschberg tunnel and over the Gotthard mountain route are essential from a Federal Council perspective, he added. The fact that the Gotthard Panorama route was not mothballed for cost reasons is a stroke of luck, he said.
The tunnel system, which consists of two tubes, is likely to remain closed to passenger traffic for many months as there is no way to currently evacuate passengers in the event of an incident. Full repair of the damaged tunnel requires 8 kilometres of track repair and the replacement of 20,000 concrete sleepers. Repair work on the tunnel is expected to run until the end of this year.
SRF article (in German)