Thursday, June 2, 2016

Switzerland Opens Gotthard Base Tunnel

Switzerland has opened up the longest railway tunnel in the world, 17 years and $12bn after it committed to break the record.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, joined Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann for a ride in first class through the tunnel.
"The new tunnel fits into the European railway freight corridor, which links Rotterdam and Genoa" key ports in the Netherlands and Italy, said Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Aside from saving time, more merchandise can be carried through the Alps".
"A masterpiece in tunnel construction, world class, a record-breaker!". There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT).
The project consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (in the german speaking canton of Uri) and Bodio (in the italian speaking canton of Ticino), and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden).
With a route length of 57.09 km (35.5 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, The Gotthard Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world and represents the centrepiece of the New Rail Link through the Alps (NRLA).
It is also the first flat route through the Alps or any other major mountain range, with a maximum height of 549 metres (1,801 ft) above sea level. It is therefore the deepest railway tunnel in the world, with a maximum depth of approximately 2,300 metres (7,500 ft).
Gotthard overtakes the 53.9-kilometer Seikan Tunnel in northern Japan as the longest rail tunnel in the world, relegating the 50.5-kilometer Channel Tunnel between Britain and France into third place.
Plans for a better rail tunnel have been around since the 1940s. In 1992, 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted in referendum the AlpTransit project to build a new high-speed rail link through the Alps. Two years later the project got added impetus, when Swiss voters also backed a proposal from environmental groups to move all freight travelling through Switzerland from road to rail. Tunnel construction began in 1996. Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV, and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011.
Total projected cost of the project was 9.8 billion Swiss francs (€8.85 billion or US$10.3 billion) but the final cost exceeded $12 billion.

When it opens in December, 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will travel through the two-way, long tunnel each day.
SBB sees the opening of the Gotthard base tunnel as ‘the most important milestone’ in the upgrading of the north-south transalpine corridor.

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