Record after record on the Lötschberg axis!
In the last ten years, freight transport on the Lötschberg axis (mountain and base routes) has more than trebled. Since the inauguration of the Lötschberg base route in 2007, almost the totality of freight trains on the north-south direction as well as the heavier freight trains on the south-north direction have run on the base route, whereas lighter ones used the mountain route.
New records have already been set in 2011:
On 9th February 2011, 95 freight trains with 118.968 gross tonnes were transported on the Lötschberg axis. This exceeded the last record of 20 May 2010 by 5.727 gross tonnes. On 24th February 2011, the magic threshold of 100 freight trains per day was crossed. A total number of 102 trains with a load of 126.818 gross tonnes passed on the Lötschberg axis. This exceeded the only recently established record of 9th February 2011 by another 7 trains and 7.850 gross tonnes.
The reason for the momentary accumulation of records can be assigned to construction works at Gerra (Gambarogno) (CH) station on the Bellinzona‚ÄìLuino stretch, resulting in a deviation of freight trains from Gotthard via Lötschberg axis. These deviations are planned until 4th September 2011, facilitating even more records!
On 3rd March 2011, BLS was able to welcome freight train number 100.000 at the Lötschberg base tunnel on its way from Novara (I) to Freiburg (DE). Shortly after 8 am the concerned "Rolling Highway" train (i.e. transporting complete trucks including driver) arrived in Frutigen, the northern gate to the tunnel. BLS celebrated the event with a small ceremony at Frutigen station.
Since the start of operations, "Rolling Highway" trains have been constant users of the base tunnel. Today their share is about 15%. Other freight trains account for a bit more than 25%. More than half of the total capacity is occupied by passenger trains. Originally, only 30 time slots had been allocated for passenger traffic; today they use more than 50. The Lötschberg tunnel is now operating at full capacity and has reached its limits. A shift of even more traffic from road to rail will only be possible by extending the transit axis of Lötschberg, e.g. by building a second track, removing bottlenecks and facilitating the feeding lines at the borders.
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