ABB helping Switzerland become the most rail-friendly country in the world

ABB helping Switzerland become the most rail-friendly country in the world

ABB is helping the Swiss rail network – which has the highest frequency of train services in the world – expand its high-speed operations and perform at the highest levels of efficiency, reliability and safety, including the 57 kilometer Gotthard rail tunnel, the longest tunnel on the planet.

Studies repeatedly show that the Swiss travel more by train than any other nation. On average, each of the country’s 7.8 million residents travels 40 times a year on Swiss rail services, with 900,000 people on the national railroad system every single day.

Switzerland is also the most important transit country for freight crossing the Alps by rail. Around 60 percent of goods passing through Switzerland – some 25 million tons – is transported by rail annually.

This is set to double to 50 million tons by 2017 when the two new high-speed rail links that connect Switzerland to the high-speed rail networks of Germany, France and Italy via the new Lötschberg and Gotthard base tunnels are completed.

The Lötschberg and Gotthard base tunnels are the focal points of a Swiss federal project to cut rail times through the Swiss Alps by constructing base tunnels several hundred meters below the existing tunnels. Construction crews cut through the last 180 cm of rock to reach the Gotthard base tunnel far below the peaks of the Alps on Oct. 15, to much fanfare.


The 34.6 km Lötschberg base tunnel is already in operation, having opened in December 2007. The tunnel supports the western transit link between Basel on the German border and Milan in northern Italy. Some 40 passenger trains and 110 freight trains pass through the tunnel every day.

ABB supplied the 50 Hz power distribution system for the entire tunnel infrastructure - lighting, signaling, communications, ventilation and air conditioning – as well as the 16.7 Hz traction power supply system that is designed to power up to six locomotives and freight trains of up to 1.5 km in length simultaneously.

For the 57 km Gotthard base tunnel, which is scheduled to open in 2017 and will be the longest rail tunnel in the world, ABB is supplying a power distribution solution that will provide exceptional levels of reliability, availability and safety in the demanding operating conditions of the tunnel system.

The tunnel system will consist of two 57 km tunnel tubes, one for each direction, linked every 325 meters by 40 m crossways that serve as escape routes. The ABB power equipment is located in these crossways. It has to withstand large variations in pressure caused by trains speeding past at 250 km/h, and unusually harsh operating conditions – salt deposits, brake dust, soot, and abraded material.

ABB is supplying 875 units of ZX0-type gas-insulated switchgear and 500 units of REF 542plus protection and control devices. The REF 542plus ensures stable and reliable power supply by rapidly identifying the type and location of a fault. It combines measurement, monitoring, protection, control and self-diagnostics in a single package.

In addition to these two landmark tunnel projects, ABB is also supplying traction power supply packages for public transport systems in three of the country’s most important cities: Zurich, Bern and Lucerne.

In Zurich, ABB is responsible for the entire power supply system for a new 12.7 km light rail system connected to the city’s existing tram network. And for Bern’s new light rail transport system, ABB is supplying five rectifier substations that will power the capital’s tramlines. In Lucerne, ABB’s vast service capability has been called on to revamp the rectifier substations for the city’s network of trolleybus lines.