Rebuilding of the Albula Tunnel
For future generations
For him, the world record attempt is literally taking place on his own doorstep: Ueli Nyffenegger, Head of Operations for New Albula Tunnel Construction. He is at home at the construction station in Preda, where a new tunnel is being built.
Nyffenegger, who has already seen and experienced many things, completed his apprenticeship at Rhaetian Railway almost half a century ago – at Preda station. And now the world record train with its 25 formations is carefully lined up on his doorstep in the existing Albula Tunnel. How does a railway expert like him feel about the upcoming world record attempt?
Of course I do, really clearly in fact. I started my two-year apprenticeship as an operations planner at RhB on 1 May 1974: at Davos Dorf station. And at the time it was standard for apprentices to move around after the first year – after successfully passing the intermediate examination. As a result, I worked at various stations from the second year of my apprenticeship onwards. In the winter of 1975/1976 I was transferred from Ospizio Bernina to Preda. The reason was simple: they needed more people to work on the sledging operation there, with all that that entailed. At that time, sledges were hired through and handed over by RhB staff.
Yes. I have been working in Preda for the new Albula Tunnel project since April 2014. And I will end my career up here in the Albula Valley. With the opening of the new Albula Tunnel in June 2024, my time with RhB will come to an end after 50 years of service.
It goes without saying that I will be on site in Preda on this memorable day. I’ll be there in case I'm needed. I can perform a wide range of functions if necessary. Be it as a customer manager, a shunting man or head of security. In short, I’m the troubleshooter on duty.
Clearly the communication. It is crucial that all 25 compositions communicate with each other without interference.
I’m very confident about that. I would say that RhB will set a world record.
I’ll not be escorting our VIP guests through the new Albula Tunnel personally. The local construction management will be taking care of that. Track has not yet been laid in the new Albula Tunnel, so the walk of almost 500 metres is absolutely no problem. The tunnel is also well lit.
Currently, the new Albula Tunnel is scheduled to open on 7 June 2024. According to site management, we can make that opening date.
The old tunnel – it was opened in 1903 – is beginning to show its age. If we had just gone for a refurbishment, we would still have had to build a separate safety tunnel in parallel. RhB calculated the costs. The cost of constructing a new tunnel was only marginally higher. That’s why they opted for the new Albula Tunnel construction. A further advantage of the new construction is that – in addition to a larger tunnel profile – all the technology is also being brought up to date. Ultimately, the new Albula Tunnel is to last for at least 100 years.
It’s being kept, of course: as a safety tunnel.
Yes and no. The first, admittedly ambitious date for the inauguration of the new Albula Tunnel dates back to 2020. However, construction work took longer for various reasons. But we should still be able to make the aforementioned opening date of 7 June 2024.
I usually use our fantastic sledging run between Preda and Bergün in February. Normally, I sledge down to the valley two or three times a year. I can’t really say what my track record is. But I’ve already done top speeds of between 45 and 50 km/h. Provided the runway is clear.