THE SWISS parliament has released an initial SFr1·3bn tranche of funding for the Ceneri base tunnel, which forms part of the AlpTransit Gotthard project.

Proposals for the 15·4 km tunnel between Bellinzona and Lugano were approved in 2003, and the final stage of the planning authorisation is due to be completed this month. The transport department has appointed AlpTransit Gotthard AG as project manager for the scheme, and expects to see preparatory work starting in the autumn, so that the main construction can get underway in 2006-07.

The government has now decided to build both bores of the Ceneri tunnel together, rather than phasing the investment. This is expected to increase the cost to SFr2bn at 1998 prices, which is still within the overall budget of SFr16·8bn for the AlpTransit Gotthard project. Delaying one bore would have reduced the tunnel’s capacity by around 40%, with a significant impact on development of the TiLo cross-border S-Bahn network linking Ticino and Lombardia.