The World’s Longest and deepest tunnel opens in Switzerland

A tunnel running through the Alps in Switzerland that has taken 17 years to construct has finally been opened. The Gotthard Base tunnel stretches 57 Km making it the world’s longest tunnel. Additionally, it is at 2,300 m below the surface of the mountain in place, becoming the world’ deepest rail tunnel. The opening of the Tunnel was inaugurated amid colorful scenes, graced by dignitaries including French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi joined Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann.

London’s Crossrail is considered the largest construction project in Europe but it only includes 42 km of new tunnels. Gotthard Base Tunnel is about 3 km longer than Seikan Tunnel in Japan and just less than 7 km longer than Channel Tunnel between France and the UK. When you factor in the two tubes that make the Gotthard Base Tunnel and its various shafts, including access tunnels and cross passages, it is actually 152 km of tunnels in total.

The idea of creating such a tunnel was conceived 68 years ago, but plans have been redrawn on a number of occasions. Construction started with 2,400 workers on site, especially during peak times. Sedimentary rocks and granite rocks were the primary materials that were drilled. About 80% of the work was carried out by boring machine while the rest 20% was done using blast methods. In total, approximately 28.2 million tonnes of material was excavated. When laying the slab track commenced, it took 125 workers working three shifts around the clock over three years to complete. The process used 131,000 cu m of concrete, 380 sleepers, and 290 km of track.

The Gotthard tunnel now connects Erstfeld with Bodio. It will see 325 trains run through it, of which 260 will be freight trains travelling at 160-km/h (124-mph) and 65 passenger trains travelling at 200-km/h (124-mph). The speeds of these trains are expected to rise over time, with the passenger trains projected to reach 250 km/h. This would result in the journey time between Lugano and Zurich would be cut by around 45 minutes. The tunnel will also reduce an hour off the travel time between Milan, Zurich, and Switzerland.

AlpTransit Gotthard, which is the company behind the construction of the tunnel, noted that the project is expected to boost reliability and efficiency of rail freight making it more competitive.

You can watch the tunnel here.

Featured Image Credit:bbc


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