World’s Longest Train Tunnel Set To Open In 2016

The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) recently announced that the world’s longest and most anticipated train tunnel is expected to open in 2016. With a route length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts, and passages, the Gotthard Base Tunnel officially surpasses the massive Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

Nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps, excavation and rail installation for the base tunnel has officially been completed, with wiring and testing procedures now taking place. The Gotthard will allow for quicker and more efficient transport of cargo, faster passenger service at rates up to 250 km/h (155.3 mph), and 50 percent greater rail capacity between Germany and Italy.

The new transport system will make the trip between Zürich, the largest city in Switzerland, and Lugano, a city that neighbors Italy, 25 minutes shorter than it is today. What’s more, the train trip from Zürich to Milan will be less than three hours from its current four-hour status.

The railroad consists of two single-track tunnels and is a part of the AlpTransit project, which includes the 35-kilometre Lötschberg base tunnel beneath the Bernese Alps and the under construction Ceneri Base Tunnel to the south.

Early on, the goal of the project – also known as the New Railway Link through the Alps – was vouched as a way to improve rail links and reduce transport truck road traffic through the area for environmental and logistical reasons. So, it comes as no surprise that 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the venture – which includes a total of 25 projects – in a 1992 referendum.

According to the SBB, the number of passengers traveling through the Gotthard tunnel will significantly increase from 9,000 to 15,000 by 2020. In addition, the volume of freight carried between Rotterdam and Genoa, Italy will rise by 20 percent.

The total cost of the Gotthard’s construction is an estimated 9.8 billion Swiss francs, or 10.3 billion U.S. dollars, and it is anticipated to be operating by December 11, 2016 – just in time for Christmas.

When completed, the Gotthard will have been one of the longest tunnel construction projects in the world with 20 years of constant building and preparation, having started in 1996.