The sun-kissed town of Visp has been a traffic junction in the middle of the Central Alps for centuries now. If you want to cross the Furka or Simplon Pass, you have to go through Visp. Or if you want to go to one of the renowned skiing destinations of Zermatt, Saas-Fee or Grächen, you have to go through Visp. The small town on the Upper Rhone has perfect conditions for both tourism and vine growing in Europe’s highest vineyard. But Visp also has the reputation of being something of a bottleneck for traffic.

Now, through traffic is to be diverted away from Visp. Which in fact in this case means through the mountain. Two tunnels totaling 16 km in length are to provide the long-awaited southern bypass. Switzerland has been investing in the extension of the national A9 highway in upper Valais since 2001 to create perfect conditions for residents and road users alike.

With R&M it is possible to define customized solutions fast and without any complications.

Stefan Wenger, responsible for operational and safety equipment, ANSB, Canton of Valais

In Switzerland, optimal road conditions include modern highways that are exemplary and future-proof in terms of safety, technology and convenience. This requires extensive installations and a highly modern network along the way.

Complex technology behind the scenes

Drivers are hardly likely to notice just how much technology there is behind the scenes. They expect traffic to flow without congestion, signs and traffic systems that are easy to follow as well as uninterrupted radio communication, not only for their safety.

Around 100 kilometers of fiber optic cabling, 90 kilometers of communication cables and 1000 fiber modules from R&M are providing the network in the southern tunnel bypass of Visp. Around 10 percent of the overall investment is being pumped into operational and safety equipment. The installation is designed to provide an uninterrupted life cycle of 15 years. A tough demand because climatic conditions in the tunnels facilitate corrosion.

When the two tunnels go into operation, there will be massive amounts of digital information at all times. This will come from more than 100 video cameras, over 100 emergency telephones, traffic signals, fire and smoke alarms, sensors and hundreds of controls. The control center in Sierre will use the data to control the flow of traffic, ventilation, gates/doors and other tunnel equipment. To ensure the information flows as fast as possible, the planners designed the tunnel network to offer a transmission performance of 10 Gigabit/s.

Long-term trust

As in earlier projects, the cantonal branch of the Federal Road Building Office (ANSB) is relying on R&M as a partner for cabling in the mountain. The ANSB sets great store by expertise, continuity and individual support. The network technology must be compatible with earlier construction sections. This is why R&M is involved in the individual planning phases – in this case in collaboration with installation partner Marti Technik AG.

It is not only price that is decisive when it comes to choosing a supplier. For Stefan Wenger, responsible for operational and safety equipment at the ANSB in the canton of Valais, important factors include criteria that simply cannot be defined in figures. Quality and experience from previous projects are just two of those criteria. He also sets store by good collaboration with the installation company and its recommendations.

Flexibility in the project

Handling is of major importance for installation engineers. When glass fibers have to be spliced five thousand times in a tunnel project, time is of the essence. Roberto Quartara, project lead at Marti Technik AG, speaks from experience: «However good your planning is, at the end of the day the timeframe for the installation engineer is always tight. Lots of other companies are involved and the infrastructure is already in use. And changes are constantly being made and these have to be taken into consideration.» This is why Quartara appreciates R&M’s flexibility and support: «During the process, suggestions for improvement were being made all the time and R&M took them into consideration immediately in each case.»

From left to right: Peter Meier, R&M Switzerland; Roberto Quartara, Marti Technik AG; Stefan Wenger, ANSB Valais; Walter Kurzen, R&M Switzerland

Stefan Wenger agrees: «We need contact with the suppliers to define specific solutions. With R&M we know that this is possible.» For example, R&M provided snap-on metal housing for the emergency call boxes which were tailored to suit the specific needs of the ANSB.

Stefan Wenger sees increasing bandwidth requirements as a future challenge. Road users have more and more information and infotainment possibilities. And the network has to be able to provide the necessary transmission performance. The drivers of the 17 000 vehicles that will be using the A9 at Visp every day in the future will want to have the full range of their electronic features at their disposal. They assume that an Alpine tunnel will have a reliable, fast and multifunctional data and communication network.