- 57km long
- 28.2 million tonnes of excavated rock
- 2,600 people worked on the tunnel
- Drill deviation of only 8cm horizontally and 1cm vertically when boring through rock
- Journey time cut by 45mins Zurich-Lugano
It was no simple ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Seventeen years in the making the Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland has officially opened in a ceremony celebrating the money and manpower that went into making the world’s longest tunnel.
Costing 11 billion euros, the project is an epic feat of engineering, something the Swiss were keen to honour through dance and song.
At 57 kilometres long and travelling 2.3 kilometres deep beneath the Alps, the tunnel will slice 45 minutes off the journey time between Zurich and Lugano. It will also form the backbone of a high speed network connecting Dutch sea port Rotterdam to the Italian port of Genoa.
It also aims to protect the snow-capped mountains from further erosion, cut CO2 emissions, and boost tourism to the region.
European leaders Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Matteo Renzi were among the VIPs making the maiden journey, underlining the importance of the tunnel as the centrepiece of a project to move goods from road to rail. Five hundred others won tickets in a competition to catch the first train.
When it officially opens in December the two-way tunnel will take 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day.
Estimated to cost eight million euros, the lavish ceremony took place at two ends of the tunnel.
Even a beer was made to commemorate the event.
First conceived by Basel-based engineer Eduard Gruner in 1947, Swiss voters approved the construction in the 1990s and work began in 1999.
A total of 28.2 million tonnes of rock were excavated, much of that was used in the cement to line the tunnels. In 2010 the huge drill dubbed ‘Sissi’ broke through the last stretch of deep rock in the Swiss alps.
Since October 2015, experts have been running tests driving trains up to 275km per hour through the tunnel.
It links Erstfeld in the north and Bodio in the south.