The world’s longest rail tunnel, 57km long, opened on 1 June 2016. This feat of Swiss engineering, which crosses the Alps and links the cantons of Uri and Ticino, was built by AlpTransit Gotthard SA, a subsidiary of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). AlpTransit has a workforce of 170, including 53 women, which makes it something of an exception in the construction and infrastructure engineering sector.
Women make their mark
Sissi, Heidi, Gabi and Gabi II: these are the names of the 450-metre long tunnel boring machines that dug the Gotthard Tunnel under the Alps. These feminine monikers do little justice to the hard work and tremendous contribution women have made to this gigantic building project for more than 20 years. Many women, in particular professionals from the environment and planning sectors, have dedicated years of their lives to ensure the success of the project. Christine Ebenhög, an engineer of German origin who has lived in the commune of Personico in Ticino near the south portal of the tunnel since 2003, is one of them.
Christine Ebenhög, balancing family life and a busy work schedule
Christine, a native of Erlangen in Bavaria with a degree in engineering from the University of Darmstadt, was just 32 when she moved to Ticino with her husband. As a mother of three, balancing family life and a busy work schedule was quite a challenge. But she was highly motivated and unafraid to stand her ground in a male-dominated world. Christine recalls: “As a woman, in the beginning I had to have sharp elbows to hold my own. The biggest challenge was organising our schedules, particularly once we had our fourth child. But because we both worked in the same community of engineers, my husband and I were able to juggle our schedules to make sure that one of us was always with the kids.”