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Innovative personnel location system increases safety in world’s longest railway tunnel

The Swiss Gotthard Base Tunnel extends for a length of over 57 kilometers. Swiss Railway trains race through this tunnel at speeds of up to 250 km/h about once every 30 minutes. Train service pauses for only 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday nights when up to 250 employees enter the tunnel to perform necessary maintenance work.

With a tunnel length of over 150 km, time must be used efficiently: maintenance staff often require up to 3 hours just to arrive at and/or depart from the site. At the same time, however, employee safety in this complex tunnel is the topmost priority.

For over six months now, an innovative personnel tracking system, a joint project by Rhomberg Bahntechnik AG, Control Center Apps GmbH and ESRI, has been in operation increasing both safety and efficiency in the tunnel. More than 1800 Heavy Duty iBeacons provided by kontakt.io were installed in the underground tunnel system enabling internal and external employees to be easily located via the Bluetooth iBeacons.

The actual position of all employees is shown on a map on mobile devices and can also be seen in the control room. This information is paramount in the event of a necessary evacuation. Safety-relevant processes such as presence checks at the start and end of shifts, the keeping of location logs, team relocations and employee transfers between teams, all previously paper-based processes, are now handled via the mobile app on tablets and smartphones providing essential real-time information.

"Every year, the maintenance of the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Ceneri Base Tunnel eats up around 30 million Euros," says Thomas Gut, Head of Lifecycle Management Gotthard Axis. "My goal in choosing this system was to increase safety while reducing long-term operating costs."

At the time of writing, the Ceneri Base Tunnel has already been equipped with this innovative personnel location system as well!

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