MAN Truck & Bus

Panoramablick auf eine Gondel und das Matterhorn in den Alpen

To the world's

highest cable car


Floating over snowcapped peaks, enjoying a panoramic view: the highest three-cable installation in the world has been opened in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. Mountain tourists travel in glazed gondolas on the Klein Matterhorn. The construction work at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters lasted two and a half years. Two MAN trucks also displayed their muscles. They dragged 60-tons of cable drum up the mountain as a tandem.

Zwei MAN-Lkw transportieren schwere Seiltrommeln durch die Alpen
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United forces MAN trucks belonging to South Tyrolean company Moosmair transporting the cable drums in tandem. © Roland P. Poschung


The Ferrari amongst cable cars 

Higher, faster, more luxurious: the gondolas on the Matterhorn Glacier Ride cable car were designed by Pininfarina, an Italian design studio for automotive brands like Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. It recently crowned the new Istanbul airport with a futuristic control tower. The designers have pampered passengers on the Matterhorn cable car with glass and glitter: even the floors of the passenger cabins offer a clear view of the mountain panorama, four of the 25 carriages are studded internally and externally with crystals. The cable cars can carry up to 2,000 passengers per hour up to the mountain station at a height of 3,821 metres. It takes nine minutes to travel to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (Klein Matterhorn).


Trucks in Tandem 

Many loads can only be moved with united forces. This also applies to the 60-ton cable drums for the three-cable installation. South Tyrolean company Moosmair transported them to the mountain station from the south side of the Klein Matterhorn. Two powerful MAN trucks served as load carriers up to the material depot at Laghi delle Cime Bianche. The entire weight of the rope drum was too great. Each truck therefore loaded a smaller drum weighing 30 tons. The vehicles fought their way up the mountain in tandem and mastered the transport in inaccessible terrain despite extremely steep sections. 


Major construction site on the mountain

The ton was the most important unit when constructing this three-cable installation of superlatives. Hundreds of tons of steel, concrete, cement, earth and rock had to be moved to ram the installation's pillars and buildings into the mountain. 145 individuals from 38 different companies were involved in the largest building project in Zermatt Bergbahnen AG's history. They worked with cranes, excavators, drilling machines and dynamite. Helicopters initially flew the materials onto the mountain, a material cable car was subsequently erected specifically for such transport. It heaved the construction material to the high alpine mountain station via a 650 square metre interim depot on the Laghi delle Cime Bianche in Italy. The construction cost a total of over 45 million euros and the construction period was two and a half years.


per second is the speed the gondolas travel on their way to the mountain station.


3.821 METRES

above sea level sits the mountain station for the new cable cars.



In icy storms

Daytime temperatures down to minus 30 degrees, wind speeds of 270 kilometres per hour, heavy snowfall and thick fog are not uncommon on the Klein Matterhorn. The construction crews had to work in expedition equipment to protect themselves from the extreme weather conditions. They also had to avoid overextending their strength: Low oxygen levels in the high air meant that personnel at the highest construction site in Europe could only achieve around 60 to 80 percent of their normal performance. Construction materials were also tested to their limits in the icy mountain air. The concrete had to be prepared using hot water and not be allowed to cool down, since concrete work is only possible at plus five degrees Celsius. Even construction machinery had to be technically adapted for use in extreme pressure and temperature conditions. But even if wind and weather sometimes delayed construction – the highest three-cable installation in the world went into operation in the autumn of 2018.

Bauarbeiter auf der Baustelle der Zerrmatt Bergbahn mit Blick auf verschneite Alpen
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Energy-sapping Low oxygen levels in the high air meant that personnel at the highest construction site in Europe could only achieve around 60 to 80 percent of their normal performance. © Roland P. Poschung

Text   Roland P. Poschung / Felix Enzian
Photos   Zermatt Bergbahnen AG (Header)

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