A major breakthrough...

Wednesday 20 Oct 2010

Gotthard Base Tunnel reaches new milestone

A few days ago, a 3,000 tonne drill powered through the last few metres of Alpine rock during the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. At 57km (35.4miles) the 9.5m wide passageway now bears the title of the world's longest train tunnel, surpassing the previous record breaker - the undersea Seikan Tunnel, Japan - by 3km.

Shortly after 2pm on 15th October, the last 5ft of intact rock was shattered under the watchful gaze of 200 assembled dignitaries and construction workers. Engineers from both sides shook hands as a Swiss TV channel broadcast the historic breakthrough live to the public. Construction has not been easy however; eight construction workers lost their lives bringing the project to this stage, and were remembered in a minute's silence by Friday's congregation.

Boasting a total 151.84km of tunnels, shafts and passages, Gotthard Base Tunnel is estimated to cost around €7bn and will ultimately enable 300 passenger and freight trains to travel the twin tubes from Zurich to Milan on a daily basis, completing the journey in less than three hours.

Responsible for construction is Alp Transit Gotthard AG, a subsidiary of owner Swiss Federal Railways. The project has been met with a highly positive response from the Swiss public, many of whom are concerned about the congestion and pollution of the Swiss Alps from 1.3m trucks that travel the scenic route annually. It is hoped that this figure will drop to 650,000 with the completion of the new tunnel.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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