The drilling phase of the Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland has been completed, establishing itself as the world’s longest tunnel.
The tunnel, which has taken the past fourteen years to drill, is 35 miles long and is not likely to be in operation until 2016, according to BBC.
However, once the tunnel is up and running, it is expected to revolutionize the trade routes across the entire European continent. Eventually, trains will be traveling at 155mph straight under the Swiss Alps, delivering cargo and carrying passengers from “A to B”.
2,000 meters below the surface of the earth, workers marveled as the two ends of the tunnel came together. The event was broadcast on live television across Switzerland; millions tuned in as the drill came through the other end.
As the ends met, a worker held a statue of Saint Barbara, the age old patron saint of miners, through an opening in the drilling machine.
There were approximately 2500 workers on the project; eight lost their lives during the drilling process.
Cutting Travel and Shipping Times
The Gotthard tunnel will accommodate 300 trains per day and cut travel time between Zurich and Milan by at least an hour-and-a-half, according to BBC.
Cargo trains will also be traveling in and out of the tunnel, carrying supplies and materials to all parts of Europe. Switzerland is a major trade junction for Europe and the Gotthard tunnel is only one part of a project to move cargo off the road and onto the rails.
Along with the obvious benefits of speed and efficiency, it could also pose less of a threat to the environment by taking carbon-producing cargo trucks off the road.
One Isn’t Enough
By sometime in the 2020’s, two other trans-alpine tunnels are to be completed, according to BBC. The tunnels are expected to be in the same range of 50-60 kilometers and will be underground inter-country railways.
The first tunnel will connect Lyon, France and Turin, Italy and the other will replace the old Brenner road tunnel from Italy to Austria.
The length of the Gotthard tunnel surpasses that of Seikan tunnel in Japan, which connects the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, and the Chunnel, which connects England and France, as well.
According to BBC, Peter Fueglistaler, the head of the Swiss Federal Transport Office, said, “In Switzerland we are not a very emotional people, but if we have the longest tunnel in the world that’s… very, very emotional.”
Swiss Complete World’s Longest Tunnel – BBC