Passing on expertise in the mountains

Passing on expertise in the mountains

15. november 2017

With an elevation of 2106m, the Gotthard Pass in Switzerland is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the Alps. Traversing granite rock faces, high plateaus and a dramatic gorge, the road is a masterpiece of civil engineering. fischer has been on hand to help keep it safe.

From day out to disaster in seconds

 In summer 2006, tragedy struck the highway leading to the St Gotthard tunnel. Two people lost their lives when a huge rock fall ploughed into the road below, crushing everything in its path. The road remained closed for weeks. The disaster came as a warning; a reminder of the hazards that dynamic mountain environments and the routes that pass through them can present. Whether rock falls in summer, avalanches in winter or extreme weather conditions all year round, the risks to drivers are only set to get worse – especially in the face of climate change. Secure protective structures have never been more essential.

Bracing the elements

 The Gotthard Pass has long been a key route through the Alps. Linking the German-speaking Canton of Uri with the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino, it not only connects the north and south of the country, but also the north and south of Europe. For a long time, it was a journey not thought possible due to the challenges presented by the epic landscape of the Gotthard Massif.

Today, however, a pass road, a highway tunnel and two rail tunnels navigate the Alpine barrier. One of these is the shiny new Gotthard Rail Base Tunnel, opened in 2016. At almost 60km long, it is the longest and deepest train tunnel in the world – reducing travel time between Zurich and Milan by an hour.

And yet, despite these faster alternatives and the greater risks older passes present, thousands of motorists and cyclists continue to opt for the more scenic path – winding slowly up, down and around the Alps, rather than heading straight through them.

fischer to the rescue

 Among those that head up the pass road every year are Swiss Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) vehicles, construction company trucks, maintenance vans and… fischer. Whilst taking a second to appreciate the stunning scenery is unavoidable, fischer is there for business, not pleasure: to carry out essential restoration projects and repair work.  In 2014, one such project got underway. Involving 5,150m of road and 357m of height difference, the 5-year scheme is renovating the section of road between Göschenen and Andermatt. Part of this project includes the reinforcement of the Tanzenbein Gallery – one of six such structures shielding the road below from potential falling obstacles. And this is where fischer’s innovation has been vital. Initially, the roof was fortified. This involved securing new concrete to old concrete. To do this 1,900 fischer concrete-concrete shear connectors FCC-A were applied to an area of 250m2. Consisting of an anchor rod and a special nut, the connectors were added by hand to pre-drilled holes, which were filled with the fischer 2-component injection mortar system: FIS V. Once set, the connectors are able to bear heavy loads and withstand pressure from movement in any direction. The same injection mortar was also applied to the gallery walls to anchor new reinforcement bars and connect the new sidewalls with the existing vertical supports.

 “In environments like this, nature can quickly undermine schedules for quick construction progress – even in the 21st century. This is why the construction-approved FCC-A and FIS V fixing systems perfectly fit the job,” explains Markus Unmüssing from SFS unimarket (fischer’s Swiss importer).

Despite its complexity and the conditions involved, so far the project is running like clockwork. And while some might suggest this has something to do with the country in which it is based, it seems clear in this case that the technology is perfectly matched to the challenge. With the expertise and the right tools, man is continuing to overcome nature – one road bend at a time. One pass at a time.