The world's longest tunnel

The world's longest tunnel

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The world's longest tunnel is scheduled to open in 2017 and is designed to carry passengers and freight between Zurich and Milan in under three hours. It is 57-km (35.4-mile) long and travels deep below Switzerland's Gotthard massif.

But the boasting rights come at a price. By the time the giant drill had cut the last section of tunnel on October 15, 2010, the project had claimed the lives of eight workers.

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Engineers and miners watch as the drill machine breaks through the rock at the Faido-Sedrun section of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel.

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. Sedrun, Switzerland. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

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. Sedrun, Switzerland. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Celebrating miners pose for a picture in front of the drill machine, which is nicknamed Sissi and measures 10 metres (32 feet) in diameter. Audio by Heinz Ehrbar, chief construction officer, 16 OCT 2010.

The Big Dig

Key facts on the Gotthard tunnel project:

  • Costing around 10 billion Swiss franc ($10.4 billion), the tunnel can accommodate more than 200 trains per day travelling at speeds of up to 150 mph, nearly doubling the amount of freight that could previously be transported across the Alps to about 40 million tonnes per year.
  • The tunnel helps reduce the travel time between Zurich and Milan by an hour, to two hours and 40 minutes.
  • Over the course of the dig, 13 million cubic metres of rock were cut out of the mountain, equivalent to five times the volume of Egypt's Great Pyramid at Giza.
  • The Gotthard tunnel steals the title of world's longest rail tunnel from the undersea Seikan rail link between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, which measures 53.85 km (33.46 miles) in length, followed by the 50.45-km (31.35-mile) Channel Tunnel linking Britain with France.