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The Gotthard Base Tunnel: cablex keeps it safe.

Between March 2015 and mid-May 2015 an average of six cablex employees (electricians and fibre optic cable-splicers) installed the smoke and fire detectors in the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT).

Each of the two separate tunnel tubes has two multifunction stations (MFS). These MFSs serve as emergency stop stations in the event of an accident. Drivers also have the opportunity to switch tunnels both before and after the MFS. This might become necessary during a maintenance interval or in case of an accident. For each MFS, cablex installed 14 infrared cameras and seven fire alarms. In total, cablex laid 18,000 m power cable, 8,000 m fibre optic cable and 1,800 m data cable, and drilled 10,000 fixing holes. Along with multimode splicing we were also able to split the FibroLaser cables. These cables can detect rising temperatures in the tunnel within just a few metres in order to pinpoint fires at the source. The whole installation enhances safety while directly controlling the seven exhaust fans.

One and a half months before starting work on the Gotthard Base Tunnel, cablex employees had to undergo a stress test. Along with training in safety theory there was also a medical check-up, including a stress ECG. Employees were only allowed to work in the GBT after presenting all necessary clearances.

The tunnel work was highly challenging, both physically and mentally. It was 28 degrees with high humidity. The constant very high noise level certainly didn’t help the high degree of mental stress. The work materials had to be ordered three weeks before they were required so that they could be factored into plans for train transport, along with the employees. All employees had to take the train departing at 6.15 am from Erstfeld into the tunnel. Any tools or materials left behind would have to wait until the next day. At around 4.45 pm the train would make its way out of the tunnel again, and after a hard day’s work, employees finally got to see the light of day again.

In contrast to Erstfeld, employees in Faido were able to drive their cars into the tunnel. They had to leave their keys in the car to allow the fastest possible evacuation in the case of emergency. And that certainly wasn’t the only sign of the high degree of mutual trust in the tunnel.

There was only one occasion when project manager Frédéric Häusermann had serious cause for concern: He had heard that one of his staff members had had an accident. But with no mobile reception in the tunnel, it took some time before he could establish what had happened. By the evening that he found out that a hydraulic lift had toppled over from the hard shoulder. Luckily there was “only” material damages, and no-one was injured. Nonetheless, the fire department and rescue train were deployed for safety reasons.

Whenever he visited the tunnel in his function as project manager, Frédéric Häusermann would take along his bicycle. As soon as he’d finished work, he would set off with his bicycle and a headlamp on the 60-minute return journey out of the 57-kilometre tunnel.

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Here are some images which capture the work on the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

cablex AG | Tannackerstrasse 7 | 3073 Gümligen | Phone 0848 222 539 | cablex.info@cablex.ch