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World's longest railway tunnel is finally getting ready

Last updated on: October 13, 2010 08:42 IST

World's longest railway tunnel is finally getting ready

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The Gotthard Base Tunnel is a CHF 9.83 billion railway tunnel under construction in Switzerland.

With a length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, it will be the world's longest tunnel (of all railway tunnels) on completion, surpassing the record holder, the Seikan Tunnel (connecting the Japanese islands of Honshū and Hokkaido).

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Image: Miners watch as the ''gaby'' drill breaks through the rock at the construction site of the Gotthard Base Tunnel on June 16, 2009.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
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For 14 years, mammoth machines have been tunnelling through the mountain from Erstfeld in the north and Bodio in the south of Switzerland to construct the longest railway tunnel in the world.

The final breakthrough between north and south will be made on October 15, 2010.

The Gotthard rail tunnel is scheduled to open in December 2017.

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Image: Miners stand in front as the drill machine 'Gaby' breaks through the rock at the section Erstfeld-Amsteg at the construction site of the Gotthard Base Tunnel on June 16, 2009.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
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World's longest railway tunnel is finally getting ready

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The project has two tunnels with one track each. GBT is part of the Swiss AlpTransit project, also known as New Railway Link through the Alps which includes the Lotschberg Base Tunnel between the cantons of Berne and Valais.

Like the Lotschberg tunnel, it will bypass winding mountain routes and establish a direct route suitable for high speed rail and heavy freight trains.

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Image: A miner holds a statue of St. Barbara, patron saint of miners, as he is welcomed by colleagues after the drill machine 'Gaby' made it through the section Erstfeld-Amsteg.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
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World's longest railway tunnel is finally getting ready

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The tunnels criss-cross Switzerland, an Alpine hub for international transit between two of Europe's most dynamic economic regions, northern Italy and southern Germany.

When completed, it should decrease the 3.5 hours travel time from Zurich to Milan by an hour and from Zurich to Lugano to 1 hour 40 minutes. The two portals are near the villages of Erstfeld, Canton Uri and Bodio, Canton Ticino.

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Image: Miners stand in front of the gaby drill.
Photographs: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
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World's longest railway tunnel is finally getting ready

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The Swiss are also studying a possible 240-km (149 mile) long fully automated supply tunnel to connect eastern and western Switzerland.

The "Swiss Cargo Tube" would transport goods up to 60 meters below the ground, 24 hours a day.

Oliver Vion -- a 47-year old Frenchman heads the Swiss-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.

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There are other tunnelling nations, like Japan and Norway, but the sheer length of Swiss tunnels is breath-taking.

Length: 56.978 km (35.404 mi) (western tunnel) 57.091 km (35.475 mi) (eastern tunnel)

Total length of all tunnels and shafts: 151.84 km (94.35 mi)

Diameter of each of the single-track tubes: 8.8-9.5 m

Start of construction: 1993 (sounding drills), 1996 (preparations), 2003 (mechanical excavation).

End of construction: 2016 2017

Commissioning: Late 2017



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