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Gotthard Base Tunnel: A project of superlatives.

The 57-kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel will enter regular service with the timetable change on 11 December 2016. The insurer of the NEAT project (the new transalpine rail line) is a consortium headed by Helvetia Insurance.

4 December 2016, text: Jonas Grossniklaus, photos: AlpTransit Gotthard AG

Workers carrying our work on the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Helvetia has insured its construction.
Helvetia insures the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, linking German-speaking Switzerland with Ticino as part of the NEAT project.

The new tunnel through the Gotthard, which will enter regular service with the coming timetable change, is a milestone in engineering history. This project has also been a landmark challenge for the insurance industry. Nationale Suisse, which has now been merged with Helvetia Insurance, has been responsible for the implementation of the insurance of the NEAT project since the start. The insurance package includes construction, installation, visitor accident and liability policies for damage to property, financial losses and personal injury. The insurance risk for this construction project of the century has been shared in equal parts with Allianz Suisse.

A construction project of this magnitude brings many challenges. "The state-of-the-art technology and the risk aspects have been constantly changing since the policy was written in 2000, the geological challenges have been great and their consequences occasionally difficult to assess with certainty," explains Harald Scheer, who looked after the NEAT insurance at Nationale Suisse and now does the same at Helvetia. But even before a contract was signed with the builder AlpTransit Gotthard AG, the specific risks arising from the various construction phases had to be understood in the bidding phase and all aspects and assessments had to be brought together to create an attractive bid for the builder.

Risks in and above the tunnel

The core business of the tunnel insurer includes builder's risk insurance. This covers the costs for the restoration of destroyed building work. If, for example, there is a seismic event for unforeseeable geological reasons, in which rocks fall into the already completed tunnel and damage it, the additional costs to restore it are insured. The insurance benefit does not include additional expenditure resulting from foreseeable risks, and the builder always has to take the necessary and reasonable actions to prevent such events.

The liability cover protects the builder against claims in the event of damages to third parties. For example, ground subsidence above the tunnels may lead to damage to roads or dams. In the case of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, this risk existed specifically for dam of the Nalps reservoir, which lies to the south of Sedrun. However, no damage has occurred.

Twenty years of continuity in insurance management

Regular rail services will soon be rolling through the tunnel. For the insurers, the NEAT contract is gradually coming to an end. The insurance policies for construction, installation and visitor accidents ended on 30 June 2016. The liability insurance will continue until the end of 2016. At Monte Ceneri the insurance contract will continue until 2019. Both the builder and the insurer can look back on a successful project at the Gotthard Base Tunnel, not least because of the consistency in insurance management over two decades.

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