Fact Finding Visit to Swiss Tunnel Project

Fabian was invited in June as part of a select group of MP's to visit the Gotthard Base Tunnel, underneath the Alps. within Switzerland. This railway tunnel is currently still under construction, and will break the previous record of the undersea tunnel in Seikan in Japan to become the longest tunnel in the world. It will achieve an astounding distance of 57 km as it cuts through the Alps on a route parallel to and at a lower altitude than the current tunnel between Switzerland and Northern Italy.

For the Swiss, the most important aspect of the tunnel, is that it will allow the transport by rail and not road of a high volume of freight across their country from north to south.The new tunnel will save time and cost less to maintain than high altitude roads that are susceptible to erosion and closure. But it is the elimination of potentially millions of lorry movements that the Swiss want to achieve.

It is 'green engineering'. Fuel will be saved, carbon dioxide emissions will be far fewer, the environment will be spared motorway construction and the movement of lorries in the Swiss country side. All of this makes a contribution to avoid yet more global warming.

Fabian and the group of Parliamentarians before taking the helicoper journey to the tunnel.

Fabian travelled with seven other parliamentarians: Andrew Rosindale MP, Mark Menzies MP, Daniel Kawcynski MP, Agus MacNeil MP, Lord Patrick Courtown, Lord Mike Storey and Baroness Angela Smith. He was personally delighted when the Swiss Government invited him together with his colleagues to visit the tunnel and see at first hand the tunneling progress. Fabian has long campaigned with Leeds City Council for government policies to improve public transport in the city and the UK, thus protecting the environment and helping to stop climate change.

Fabian says, "This visit has reinforced my view that our country must invest in transport infrastructure at local and national level. We must find ways to short circuit planning deadlock, find investment and get on with building new projects taking our inspiration from the Swiss people. The high speed rail line to Leeds is a route to the economic future of Yorkshire and the project must not get derailed by the NIMBY's of Buckinghamshire. The renewal of public transport in Leeds is the key to economic regeneration of inclusive job opportunities for our city."

The Swiss army helicopter and it's route over the Alps.

To visit the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, Fabian and his colleagues were whisked by a Swiss Army helicopter over the Eiger and Jungfrau Mountains to the construction area. The visitors descended one of the ventilation shafts by cage to the tunnel level 600 meters underground. The visitors were shown the intricate details of the tunnel and the numerous safety fail-safe features to the risk of danger. The first hand glimpse at the manufacturing and engineering ingenuity involved in the project was truly remarkable.

The party visit a cross-over area deep within the tunnel.

At the end of the visit, Fabian said,

"The key message for the UK is that is is possible to have a forward looking transport policy by planning not just looking beyond the next general election, but planning up to fifty years ahead, knowing that you are trying to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. And that is what the Swiss have done with their direct form of democracy by referendum". For Fabian, it could only be seen as "inspiring and optimistic".

For more information about the tunnel, please to click here.

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