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World's Longest Rail Tunnel Opens
Jun 04, 2016

The world's longest tunnel GBT officially opened on June 1, with the trailblazing rail passage under the Swiss Alps aiming to ease transit through the heart of Europe.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) was designed to offer a better option for both private travellers and commercial freights.

Key Facts

  • The 57-kilometre GBT made its ceremonial first run with European leaders on board.

  • The tunnel is entirely funded by non-EU member Switzerland.

  • It runs from Erstfeld in the central canton of Uri, to Bodio in the southern Ticino canton.

  • When the full service opens in December, the tunnel will shave the train journey from Zurich to Milan in northern Italy down to two hours and 40 minutes, roughly an hour less than it currently takes.

  • It should also make rail freight more efficient—partly by supporting heavier cargo, which should reduce the number of smoke-spewing lorries on the roads, in turn improving traffic and curbing pollution.

  • The number of daily rail passengers is expected to increase from the current rate of 9,000 people to 15,000 by 2020, according to the Swiss federal railway service.

  • The rough design for a rail tunnel under the Gotthard Pass was first sketched by Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner in 1947. But concerns over the cost and other hurdles pushed back the start of construction until 1999.

  • The work took 17 years at a cost of more than 12 billion Swiss Francs ($12 billion, 11 billion Euros).

  • It took 43,800 hours of non-stop work by 125 labourers rotating in three shifts to lay the tunnel's slab track.

  • The ambitious venture was largely made possible by technical advances in tunnel-boring machines, which replaced the costly and dangerous blast-and-drill method.

  • GBT has surpassed Japan's 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world's longest train tunnel.

  • The 50.5-kilometre Channel Tunnel that links England and France has been bumped into third place.

The primary machine used to make the Gotthard tunnel was roughly 410-metres long and functioned like a mobile factory. It cuts through rock and throws the debris backwards while simultaneously placing the pre-formed segments of concrete that form the shape of the tunnel. A separate system grouts the pieces together.

Longest Railway Tunnel in India

Located in Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, 11.215 km long Pir Panjal Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel of India. There is a three metre wide road along the length of the tunnel for the maintenance of railway tracks and emergency relief. It takes approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds for the train to cross the tunnel. This tunnel is a stunning example of engineering genius, is situated in the middle of Himalayas.

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