The Gotthard Base Tunnel: a project – heavier than 5 Cheops Pyramids
Allianz SE | Munich | May 31, 2016
On June 1st, the longest tunnel in the world will open in the Swiss Alps. It has taken 17 years to complete. Allianz with its entities Allianz Swiss, Euler Hermes and Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has been a lead insurer from start to finish.
Gotthard Tunnel being ready
28.2 million tonnes of rock were excavated to build the 57-km-long Gotthard Base Tunnel. That’s five times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Up to 2,400 people were involved during peak times, working around the clock, up to 2,300 meters below ground and with rock reaching temperatures of 50 C°.
“Mega construction projects such as the Gotthard Base Tunnel pose enormous risks such as low breakage, fire, water leakage, gas leakage, earthquakes, heavy equipment, explosives and man-made error. The damage can quickly add up; in extreme cases, to several hundred million francs,” says Beat Guggisberg, head of Technical Insurance at Allianz Suisse. The geophysicist and risk consultant has been working on the project from the very beginning.
“Only a few companies in the world had the relevant experience and were able to adequately estimate the risks,” explains Guggisberg. That is why Allianz was chosen as one of the lead insurers for the New Alpine Transversal (NEAT), which consists of three major tunnel projects: the Gotthard, Ceneri and Lötschberg. Experts from Allianz Suisse visited the construction sites regularly to identify new risk factors and requirements early, make policy adjustments where necessary and provide NEAT with the best-possible service.
Seventy-five percent of the work at the main tunnel was done by tunnel-boring machines. Each of the drilling machines, dubbed Heidi, Sissi, Gabi I and Gabi II, is longer than four football fields and has a diameter of 9.5 meters. Euler Hermes acted as surety for the drilling machines, securing prepayments and buyback of the machines. “Being a guarantor for the drilling machines, you are part of the project and are thrilled with every milestone,” says Ron van het Hof, CEO of Euler Hermes in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The Gotthard project posed exceptional risks. Allianz entities collaborated to insure the tunnel structure itself, the people working on site and the infrastructure. Working conditions inside the mountain were particularly critical due to high temperatures, pressure and hazards caused by heavy machinery. “In the case of NEAT, we had to work under very special geological conditions and use innovative construction methods. The risk-related foundations on such long-term projects can change over time. Large risk insurance policies have to be continuously adapted as conditions change,” says Guggisberg. The picture shows the breakthrough of the tunnel tube.
The Gotthard Tunnel provides the fastest track between Zurich and Milan: 2 hours and 40 minutes. For its construction, Allianz provided risk coverage in the amount of 11 billion Swiss francs (9.9 billion euros). Allianz Swiss, Euler Hermes and Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty collaborated to insure the construction, machines and people involved as well as traffic in the new tunnel. Van het Hof adds: “Very importantly for Euler Hermes is that our collaboration with the Gotthard Base Tunnel does not end upon completion and the inauguration. We are also involved in financing the trains that speed through ‘our’ tunnel, created by ‘our’ drilling machines.”
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