Today we are telling the story of Eduard Gruner in our small blog series exploring the history of construction work on the Gotthard tunnel. He was the first to have the pioneering idea of building a base tunnel through the Gotthard.
As early on as the 1930s, Eduard Gruner, an engineer from Basel, had the idea for a transport link through the middle of the Gotthard massif. Born in Basel in 1905, the transport planner envisaged a base tunnel both for rail and road and for a combination of the two. He also considered a two-storey version. In 1947, he outlined his visionary idea for a 50-kilometre-long Gotthard Base Tunnel running from Amsteg to Biasca in a technical paper for the monthly journal “Prisma. Natur, Forschung, Technik” under the title “Reise durch den Gotthard-Basistunnel im Jahr 2000” (Journey through the Gotthard Base Tunnel in 2000).
“Surely we Swiss cannot believe in all seriousness that we have achieved enough great things for Swiss transport in building the Gotthard tunnel 70 years ago and electrifying the railway after the First World War?” the paper argued in the foreword to his fourth publication on “Die Schweizer Bahnen im Jahr 2000” (the Swiss railways in 2000). Various different visions were presented in the booklet of how people would travel by trains in 53 years’ time.
The idea of building an underground station in the middle of the Gotthard Base Tunnel near Sedrun in the canton of Grisons has also been attributed to Gruner, who wrote the following in his project outline at the time: “The train gently brakes and comes to a halt in the bustling hall of the Sedrun tunnel station. The chic sports centre is easy to reach from here in seven minutes by taking a comfortable lift through the 830-metre-tall shaft. As a result, the ski slopes of the Vorderrhein region are suddenly within quick and easy reach of Basel, Zurich and Milan (…).” Although the project was later accepted under the name of “Porta Alpina”, it has not yet been realised.
Gruner never had the chance to see the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel either, which will open next year: he died in 1984. His company – the Gruner Gruppe headquartered in Basel – is the most important construction service provider in Switzerland and worldwide. The business has around 1,000 employees in over 30 locations in Switzerland and abroad.
Photos: Keystone, SBB Historic
This post by Wolfgang Müller appeared in the SBB Cargo blog in October 2015. There you can find a gripping set of articles entitled “The Fascinating World of the Gotthard”, which will tell you all you need to know about the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel (only in German, French and Italian).