AFTER NINE years of planning, Swiss Federal Railways formally started work on September 20 for the second cross-city rail tunnel in Zürich. SBB President Andreas Meyer and Zürich regional president Rita Fuhrer participated in the ceremonies to launch the 9·6 km Durchmesserlinie, which is expected to cost around SFr1·8bn to build.

The new line will start from Oerlikon in the northern suburbs and then loop eastwards in the S-shaped Weinberg tunnel below the city to reach a deep-level through station at Löwenstrasse, 16 m below Zürich Hbf. It will then surface to join the main line to the west at Altstetten. To be used by both S-Bahn and long-distance trains, the route will eliminate the need for through trains to reverse in the terminal platforms. Meyer commented that with 2 000 train movements and 300 000 passengers/day, Zürich Hbf is by far the busiest station in Switzerland.

SBB and Zürcher Verkehrsverbund announced on September 14 the award of the first five construction contracts for the new line. These had been published in August and no objections were lodged during the statutory 20-day consultation period. They cover construction of the new junction at Oerlikon, the Weinberg tunnel, and the station shell at Löwenstrasse.

The first section between Oerlikon and Löwenstrasse is scheduled to open for S-Bahn services with the December 2013 timetable. The connection to Altstetten would follow two years later, opening up the prospect of a 30 min time saving for trains between St Gallen and Genève.