Friday, October 15, 2010

"A spectacular and grandiose monument"

The Gotthard Tunnel is certainly an amazing technological feat that offers a transportation option while preserving the beauty of the Swiss Alps. However, I'm not sure I could survive a one-and-a-half hour train ride in an underground tunnel! (GW)

Swiss near breakthrough on world's longest tunnel

BBC News
15 October 2010

Construction work in the Gotthard tunnel, file image Some 2,500 people have worked on the tunnel's construction

Swiss engineers are set to smash through the last pieces of rock to complete the digging of the world's longest transport tunnel.

The two ends of the 57km (35 mile) Gotthard rail tunnel will meet after 14 years of construction work.

The event is to be broadcast live on Swiss TV, and watched by transport ministers across Europe.

The tunnel is expected to open to trains in 2017, when it will slash journey times between Zurich and Milan.

The journey could be cut by as much as one-and-a-half hours.

The 9.8bn Swiss franc (£6.4bn; $10.3bn) project will take up to 300 trains each day underneath the Alps at speeds of 250km/h (155mph).

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Switzerland says the impetus behind the project came from concerns that the amount of freight traffic rumbling over the Alps was damaging the environment.

The length of the Gotthard tunnel will exceed the 53.8km Seikan rail tunnel linking the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, and the 50km Channel Tunnel linking England and France.

"The Gotthard will forever be a spectacular and grandiose monument with which all tunnels will be compared," said Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger.

Some 2,500 people have worked on the tunnel, and eight people have lost their lives during the construction.

Many of the workers are being invited to a celebration at the mountain village of Sedrun, where the two ends of the tunnel will meet, 2,000m below ground.

Switzerland is one of Europe's major junctions for freight, and the tunnel is part of a larger project aiming to move cargo off the roads and on to rail.

Improvements on the northern and southern approaches to the new Gotthard tunnel have been postponed, so trains will run on existing track there.

The area already has the 34km Loetschberg rail tunnel, which opened in 2007.


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