A CEREMONY on February 4 marked the start of work on the 800m Sedrun access shaft for the Gotthard base tunnel. Railway Gazette International joined invited guests to witness chief engineer for the Sedrun tunnel section Jakob Blickenstorfer detonate the first explosive charges deep within a mountainside near Sedrun.

A construction cavern housing winding gear and other equipment for sinking the shaft has been taking shape over the last three years. Release of the first tranche of funding for the AlpTransit project after last year's historic referendums has secured the scheme's future (RG 2.99 p101).

Getting work under way at the Sedrun shaft is taking priority over the rest of the tunnelling sites. The early start should allow work on the central section of the running tunnels through the Tavetsch Massif, a thick section of heavily-faulted and unstable rock, to start in 2002. This should minimise the risk of any delays caused by geological problems threatening the projected opening date in 2011.