On February 28th 2016, Switzerland experiences something which is quite special when looking a transport project. The people can vote on the construction of a new road tunnel through the Gotthard Mountain, one of the more important North-South connections through the Alps.
There has been a lot said about the benefits and disadvantages of the project. There are obvious pros and cons but most interestingly for me about this project is due process.
Since over 15 years we are discussion what will happen when the current Gotthard Road Tunnel (GST) has to undergo heavy maintenance, 40 years after its inauguration. For a long time, it was assumed, that this can be done overnight, or during summer time, when cars can use the Gotthard pass.
However, in the last years, representatives of the construction industry and the road transport industry started to advocate the construction of a second tunnel so solve a whole bunch of problems including safety and capacity problems.
Now, the public is called to invest something around 4 bn USD on the construction, without looking at the additional maintenance and energy costs to operate the tunnel.
One thing that truly bothers me is that we have not undergone a solid process, looking at the alternative solutions such as road-rail combinations, shorter tunnels, alternative routes such as the Lötschberg or a reduction of the operating times to 8:00 till 20:00. There have been numerous studies by the people against it, drawing optimal scenarios for road-rail combinations and from the people for it stating that it is the cheapest solution forgetting energy and maintenance expenses.
There are at the moment too many very smart and knowledgeable people out there, including experienced professors in the field, who state that it should not be built. At it seems that we have not followed due process in evaluating these ideas, let us have a first look at these and let the technocrats make a solid analysis before investing into something we might not need. We have so many tunnels through this mountain, is it truly too few?