The Tunnel Boring Machine breaks through the last piece of rock.
21 October 2010
Swiss Celebrate Completion of World's Longest Railway Tunnel
Bern Switzerland - On 15 Oct 2010, the people of Switzerland celebrated with abandon, as the drill broke through the last piece of rock, finally connecting the two ends of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world's longest railway tunnel. The mammoth undertaking that cost about US10 billion took 2,600 workers, 12 years to accomplish, and, it's not done yet.
The final touches which include laying rail tracks inside the 35.4-mile, tunnel that has a diameter of 9-meters, is expected to take another seven years. Once complete it, will pave the way for high-speed rail travel between northern and southwestern Europe, with as many as, 300 trains screeching through daily.
This is not the first time the Swiss have cut a railway tunnel through this treacherous region. The Gotthard Rail Tunnel, which opened in 1882 is a nine-mile stretch, that accommodates over 150 freight trains daily. However, this new tunnel is much flatter, which will allow for longer freight trains and hence have the capability to carry twice the cargo. It will also be used for high-speed passenger trains and will cut the commute time from Zurich to Milan by an hour, to 2 hrs 40 mins.
While the engineering feat is certainly commendable, the reason the country undertook such a mammoth, seemingly impossible task is even more admirable. Despite being a tiny land-locked country, with a population of only 7.8 million people, Switzerland has always been in the forefront when it comes to environmental issues. Rail cargo already accounts for 35 percent of all shipments in the region, as opposed to about 18 percent for the entire European Union. This new tunnel will increase the cargo capacity even more and help remove heavy trucks off the road. The Swiss believe that other countries will follow their lead in building additional environmentally friendly rail routes.