The longest rail tunnel in the world, an “epic feat of engineering”, has been in the works since the 1940s.
The 57 km Gotthard Tunnel from Erstfeld to Bodio is not just the longest rail tunnel in the world – it’s also the deepest, travelling under mountains more than 2000 m above the tunnel.
Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann described it as “an epic feat of engineering, a project that has involved generations, from the first sketches, to the planning and construction of the tunnel”.
The tunnel was conceived in 1947 by engineer Carl Eduard Gruner, but construction was delayed by almost 50 years due to arguments over the route and a recession in the 1970s. Eventually, a referendum of the Swiss people gave the go ahead for construction to start in the 1990s.
Four tunnel boring machines were used and they excavated over 28 million tonnes of rock, some of which was re-used in the concrete lining of the tunnel.
Schneider-Ammann said the tunnel would provide benefits beyond the Swiss borders.
“People and goods can travel more quickly. Cities like Stuttgart, Zurich, Lugano and Milan are better linked,” he said.
The tunnel is expected to carry 65 passenger trains and 250 freight trains each day. For passengers, the travel time between Zurich and Lugarno will be cut by around 45 minutes. The Swiss President said the benefits for freight were also substantial.
“Our society is becoming increasingly digitalised, but the flow of goods is going to continue to increase rather than diminish,” Schneider-Ammann said.
“Now is the time to seize the opportunity offered by this feat of engineering. Good transport routes are vital to a prosperous economy.”