Monday, June 20, 2016

Switzerland 2016 - Gotthard Base Tunnel

ISSUE DATE: 4 May 2016
STAMP SIZE: 104 x 7 mm (inc. gutter)
(32.7 x 37 mm, 38.6 x 37 mm, 32.7 x 37 mm) 
 STAMP DESIGN: Vaudeville Studios

From time immemorial, the giant Gott­hard has been perched up high on the granite and gneiss of the massif. At least according to ancient legend. An imposing figure, he parts the waters, the four winds and the cardinal points and divides cultures, languages and mentalities, dashing all human dreams of mobility and freedom of movement. 

There have, of course, always been a few stalwart individuals who have somehow succeeded in climbing over the giant’s shoulders. But it was not until 1200 that the attack on the Alpine barrier began to take a systematic approach and the wild Schöllenen Gorge was conquered – with the construction of a swaying footbridge and, finally, a bridge allegedly built with the aid of the devil. It wasn’t long before the mule trains began to get in each others’ way. The story of tailbacks at the Gotthard massif had begun … 

When the mule track was transformed into a pass road, the mail coaches took over. A famous painting by Rudolf Koller depicts galloping horses pulling the Gott­hard mail coach in Leventina. 

15 or more coaches travelled in each direction daily. But even this was barely enough. When the first tunnel opened in 1882 – a masterpiece of railway technology – the “crocodile” locomotives and spiral tunnels became famous all over the world. 1980 saw the opening of the road tunnel, and the story continued.


  • Length: 57 km (the longest rail tunnel in the world)

  • Two single-track tubes, connected by cross cuts every 325m

  • Total length of all the tunnels: 152 km
  • Northern portal in Erstfeld (UR), southern portal in Bodio (TI)
  • Highest point of the tunnel: 550 m above sea level
  • Maximum rock cover: 2,300 m
  • Construction time (excluding exploratory work): 17 years
  • Main tunnels drilled with tunnel boring machines (80%) and blasted (20%)
  • Excavated material: 28.2 million tonnes

  • Cost of the Gotthard Base Tunnel: CHF 9.7 billion (cost dating from 1998, excluding increase in VAT and construction interest; effective total cost: CHF 12.2 billion); total cost: approx. CHF 23 billion
  • Tunnel capacity: up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day
  • Timetabled speed: freight trains 100 km/h; passenger trains up to 200 km/h
  • Maximum speed: freight trains 160 km/h; passenger trains 250 km/h
  • Reduction in journey time from Zurich to Lugano after completion of the axis (from 2019/2020): around 45 minutes



Stamp images and description thanks to Swiss Post