The world’s longest railway tunnel, which cuts a 57-kilometre route through the Swiss Alps, has opened.
Not only is it the longest railway tunnel it is also the deepest – in places it is more than 2 kilometres below the surface.
Around 160,000 people applied to ride on the very first train through the Gotthard Base Tunnel on June 1. Although the tunnel won’t open to paying passengers until December.
More than 150 kilometres of tunnel were bored during the tunnel’s construction in total, including the two main tunnels between Erstfeld and Bodio, ventilation shafts and connecting tunnels.
It has taken 17 years to complete and, at the peak of activity, around 2,400 people were working on site.
In his opening speech, President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann said: “Today is an historic day for our country: We have completed the Gotthard Base Tunnel, an epic feat of engineering, a project that has involved generations, from the first sketches, to the planning and construction of the tunnel.
“I feel extremely proud, but also quite humble. For a project like this does not succeed as a matter of course.”
The tunnel will benefit both passenger and freight traffic. Journey times will be reduced and services will no longer be restricted by the limited capacity of the Gotthard railway.
Without the inclines of the current route, freight trains will also require fewer locomotives to make the journey and the maximum number of freight trains that are able to use the route each day will increase from 180 to 260.
Ahead of the opening ceremony on June 1, a memorial was held in the tunnel to remember the nine workers who died during its the construction.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel is one of three tunnels that make up the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA of NEAT). The other two are the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, which opened in 2007, and the Ceneri Base Tunnel, which is still under construction.
Once the Ceneri Base Tunnel is open, journey times between Zurich and Lugano will be cut by 45 minutes.