EUROPE'S HIGHEST CONSTRUCTION SITE ENTERS THE SECOND ROUND
21 March 2022
For the vision of a continuous, year-round connection between Zermatt and Cervinia in Italy to become reality, the construction team is challenged on the highest construction site in Europe. Construction at 3,883 m above sea level, in wind and weather, is no walk in the park. There is still a lot to do before the whole route of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing is completed in spring 2023.
For 80 years, the two destinations of Zermatt and Cervinia have been striving to unite over the mountain station on the Klein Matterhorn. After the first section of the connection was opened in autumn 2018 with the "Matterhorn Glacier Ride l", the second stroke will follow in spring 2023: the final piece of the puzzle for the connection to the Testa Grigia station in Italy is to be completed via another 3S cableway, the "Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll".
Shortly after the opening of the first section, construction work began on the second cableway. The main difference between the two cableways is that the section currently under construction will have no supports at all. However, this hardly reduces the work on the construction site. The height of the construction site, the prevailing weather conditions and the challenging logistics make the construction unique. The workers, on average about 15 people at the top of the mountain and a total of up to 70 on the entire construction site including the valley stations, have to constantly fight wind, snow and strong temperature fluctuations during their work. Added to this is the thin air at almost 4,000 meters above sea level. Construction manager Anton Lauber on the major project: "There is no comparable construction site in the world."
The construction of the "Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll" is divided into five phases:
Phase 1: The excavation
After the foundation stone was laid in 2019, the first construction phase for the "Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll" could be completed as early as 2020. In this first phase, the excavation was made and rock was removed where necessary and blasted so that all the necessary installation work could be done for the master builder. During the construction of the first section on the Klein Matterhorn, a large part of the necessary rock excavation for section two had already been done, which significantly reduced the effort this time. Nevertheless, the work took nine months to prepare everything for the stations specially adapted to the rock. Because: Apart from the railway technology, nothing is standard in the construction of the two Glacier Rides, but everything is made to measure. For the construction of the bottom station, for example, an almost 25-meter-deep excavation pit had to be dug due to the local conditions caused by the rock and glacier deposits - but this came as no surprise to the client, who was aware of the relevance of securing the building ground on the site.
Phase 2: Shoring of the electromechanical cableway technology
Phase 2 will start on the construction site in May 2022. The work in this phase includes all the necessary concrete work and the installation of the supporting structures to accommodate the electronic components. But even in spring, the work does not necessarily get any easier: the weather is and remains a challenge. Only after the completion of phase two, when work can also be done indoors/inside, does the work on the construction site become somewhat more pleasant for those involved.
Phase 2 will also see the installation of the "heart" of the new 3S cableway: the electromechanics. As soon as all the relevant components have been installed, the workers can assemble the actual cableway technology. The number of workers on the construction site also increases during this phase, when the cableway builder Leitner and his team drive up. With around 70 people, the maximum number of people in the construction team will be reached.
Phase 3 - Wooden construction of the bottom and top stations
The mountain and valley stations should be almost completed by autumn 2022. If there are no further delays due to extreme weather, the enclosure of the two stations can begin as early as summer 2022. This also includes the work for the electricity and sanitary facilities. Even though the tasks in phase 3 are much easier than in the previous construction stages, work is still being done with fall protection and safety nets - safety first in any case.
In the third phase, around 45 photovoltaic panels will be installed, which will provide a large part of the power supply in the mountain station in the future. To ensure that everything is environmentally correct, the construction site is regularly inspected by an environmental construction supervisor. Flammable material and liquids such as grease and oil are reported and safely removed.
Phase 4 - Assembly of the rope hoist
The rope hoist for the new "Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll" will be installed in phase 4. This will take place in the winter of 2022/23 when there is less activity on the glacier and therefore less safety work is necessary. The installation will take about 4 weeks per rope. Even if the ropes are already in place, a total installation time of around 20 weeks must be expected.
The installation of the ropes is difficult. The heavyweight, as well as the securing and preparation work, are costly. Anton Lauber: "Even if the actual pulling in of a rope only takes a week, this flanking work is a real back-breaking job. " There are six to eight specialists on-site to carry out the installation.
Phase 5 - cabins and commissioning, site finish and acceptance
In spring 2023, it should be ready: The "Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll" can ceremoniously open and begin its operation. Passengers from all over the world will then be able to travel easily from Zermatt to Cervinia, i.e. between Switzerland and Italy, without having to use any other means of transport than the cable car.
The last hurdle after the actual completion of work is the inspection by the Federal Office of Transport FOT. This means that everything structural, electrical and mechanical is meticulously subjected to a final inspection over seven to ten days. Thanks to internal protocols and test runs, however, the final blessing should be a mere formality.