World’s longest tunnel at Sedrun, Switzerland is now ready. Technically difficult to drill, the tunnel is very expensive. On October 15 this year, Swiss engineers cut the last part of the rock with a drilling machine named Sissi. The tunnel was conceived in 1947. The 57km (35.4 mile) long Gotthard Base rail tunnel has been hailed as an environmental triumph and an unprecedented engineering feat. Transport ministers of Europe watched the breakthrough ceremony live from a meeting in Luxembourg. It will be opened for rail traffic in 2017. It will then let passenger and cargo trains pass under the Alps at speeds of up to 155mph on their way from Germany to Italy. The tunnel has been completed after 2,500 workers spent twenty years working through and smashing rock beneath the towering Gotthard massif, including the 8,200-foot Piz Vatgira Peak.
Swiss voters approved its construction in a series of referendums almost twenty years ago and are paying about US$1,300 each to fund the $10 billion project. The tunnel is an important milestone in the goal of building a high-speed transport network covering major parts of Europe. It will allow millions of tons of goods, presently being transported through the Alps on heavy trucks, to be transported through rails. This would be significant especially on the economically important link between the Dutch port of Rotterdam and Italy’s Mediterranean port of Genoa.
Two more tunnels, one connecting Lyon, France, to Turin in Italy, and another replacing the Brenner road tunnel between Austria and Italy are underway but they will take quite some time to be completed. Switzerland’s neighbours Germany and Italy are expected to provide other high-speed rail links to improve connectivity throughout Europe. Eight men have died during the course of the Gotthard tunnel’s construction.