Dynamite blast clears way for Gotthard line

The Gotthard rail line is expected to reopen on July 2nd after a crew on Monday dynamited rock from a cliff where a lethal landslide covered the tracks earlier this month.

A 29-year-old worker died and two others were injured in the slide on June 5th when 3,000 cubic metres of rock swept down a cliff in the Gurtnellen region of canton Uri.

Experts detonated 300 kilogrammes of explosives to dislodge a further 2,500 cubic metres of rock overhanging the rail line, a major north-south route through the Alps.

In a statement, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) said the operation succeeded in removing the lingering threat posed by the cliff face.

After the blast, geologists examined the site from a helicopter that hovered over the mountainous terrain.

“We are very satisfied with the dynamite operation,” SBB geologist Marc Hauser said.

The cost of the operation is estimated at 10 million francs.

Work on clearing the tracks will start only after the cliff is further inspected, the SBB said.

Meanwhile, a Lucerne newspaper is questioning whether an error in judgment was involved in the death and injuries of workers who were examining the cliff when the landslide initially occurred.

The Neue Luzerner Zeitung reported that geologists were aware of a movement of the rock mass before the slide occurred.

Earlier in March a part of the cliff detached, although at that time experts for the railway felt there was no further risk.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Graubünden village faces new rockfall threat

The village of Bondo in the Val Bregaglia region of Graubünden is once more under threat of rockfalls just a few months after residents began to return home following a huge landslide that hit the village in August.

Graubünden village faces new rockfall threat
Bondo after last summer's landslides. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Some four million cubic metres of rock detached from the Piz Cengalo mountain on August 23rd after a period of heavy rain, sending a wave of mud, rock and debris into the village that destroyed some properties and cut off vital services
The landslide was so severe that its vibrations were measured to be the equivalent of a 3 magnitude earthquake. 
Eight hikers were presumed killed in the tragedy – their bodies were never found – and the village, though thankfully evacuated in time, was left uninhabitable until October
Now the village is faced with the prospect of further rockfalls. 
Officials from the region told the media that another large rockfall occurred on the Piz Cengalo last week, and some two million cubic metres of rock remain unstable, with at least half of that at high risk of falling in the coming days. 
Torrential rain forecast for the area over the next few days, which is particularly bad news since the retention basin – built to help protect the village from rockfalls – has not yet been entirely emptied after the last landslide.