World's deepest and longest rail tunnel to open in Switzerland

James Nickerson
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73 kinds of rock were blasted through to build the tunnel (Source: Getty)

A marvel to rival Hannibal's feat, the Gotthard base tunnel has been officially opened in Switzerland today as the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel.

Conquered the Alps, the tunnel will provide high speed rail services under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe, in the hope of revolutionising freight transport.

At current freight relies mostly on lorries and older, slower trains through the Alps.

The project cost $12.5bn after being supported by Swiss voters back in 1992. The journey, as much as 2.3km below the surface, will take just 17 minutes.

Here are some key stats behind the engineering triumph.

The Gotthard Tunnel

  • 2.3 km under the mountain​ at deepest point
  • 57.1 km long
  • 17 minute journey time
  • $12.5bn cost
  • 73 kinds of rock that had to be dug through
  • 260 freight trains per day
  • 65 passenger trains per day
  • 3,200 km copper table
  • 9 lives lost during building
  • Top speeds of 250km/h
  • 28.2m tonnes of excavated rock
  • Two 8.3m in diameter tunnels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi are among those attending the opening.

The tunnel was completed on time and within budget, sparking Swiss federal transport office director Peter Fueglistaler called "a masterpiece of timing, cost and policy", Reuters reported.

"It is just part of the Swiss identity. For us, conquering the Alps is like the Dutch exploring the oceans," he added.

And conquering it did, given that it now connects a mainline in the ports of Rotterdam to Genoa in the south.

Full services won't be open til December, and when it's fully up and running the total journey time for travellers between Zurich and Milan will be reduced be just 40 minutes.

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