The world’s longest tunnel, Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) in Switzerland was opened for regular rail services on 11 December 2016.
It got a ceremonial wave off in June this year with top European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande hopping on to experience the very first ride through the marvel. It will be carrying passengers under the Swiss Alps from Zurich to Lugano.
• With a length of 57 kilometres and a depth of over 2300 metres, GBT is the world’s longest and deepest tunnel.
• It is the first flat low-level route through the Alps Mountain and is a part of Swiss government’s New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA) programme.
• It has not only outdone the 50.5 kilometre long Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France but has also beaten Japan’s 53.9 kilometre long Seikan tunnel.
• It took 17 years to reach completion and its total cost amounts to around US $11.8 billion.
• It comprises two single-track tunnels that connect the municipalities of Erstfeld and Bodio in Switzerland.
• In comparison to earlier 180, now 260 freight trains would be able to pass through the Gotthard mountain range each day.
• The ambitious project is Swiss-funded and was made possible through advanced tunnel-boring machines.
The main purpose behind the construction of the tunnel was to do away with the cultural and trading barrier that the Alps posed as in Europe since centuries. Though the opening of the Gotthard road tunnel in 1980 made it possible for goods to be transported by road, fatal accidents and adverse environmental effects led the authorities to come up with the plan of building two base tunnels under the NRLA programme.
While GBT is the second tunnel to be built under the programme, the first was the 34.6 kilometres long Lotschberg base tunnel, which was opened for commercial services in December 2007.