The world’s longest rail tunnel, in numbers

May 29, 2016 3:10 pm
Miners celebrate after a giant drilling machine completes the world's longest tunnel beneath the Swiss Alps/AFP
Miners celebrate after a giant drilling machine completes the world’s longest tunnel beneath the Swiss Alps/AFP

, GENEVA, May 25 – The world’s longest rail tunnel, which runs under the Alps and took 17 years to build, is inaugurated on Wednesday.

Here are four key numbers about the project, called the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT).

– 57 –

At a length of 57 kilometres (34.5 miles) the GBT will overtake Japan’s 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the longest rail tunnel in the world.

A total of 152 kilometres of tunnel was carved through the mountain. That figure includes separate tubes for northern and southern travel, as well as cross passages and access tunnels.

– 1882 –

That was the year the first rail route through the Gotthard pass opened, a landmark in Swiss history that helped boost trade through the Alpine nation, which had previously been arduous to cross.

Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first sketched the idea for a rail tunnel under the Alps at the Gotthard Pass in 1947.

Sixty-nine years later, at a cost of just over 12 billion Swiss francs ($12 billion, 11 billion euros), the Gotthard Base Tunnel is set to open.

– 43,800 –

According to the Swiss federal rail service, it took that number of hours of non-stop work by 125 labourers rotating in three shifts to lay the GBT’s slab track.

The tunnel was carved by a massive 410-metre-long boring machine that removed roughly 28 million tonnes of rock.

– 2 hours and 40 minutes –

That is the estimated length of time it will take to get from Zurich to Milan once the GBT opens full service in December, roughly an hour shorter than the journey currently takes.

The federal rail service projects a boom in rail travel in the coming years, including a surge in daily passengers from the current 9,000 people to 15,000 by 2020.

Ultimately, 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains should pass through the GBT per day, at speeds of 200 kilometres per hour, the rail service said.


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