Underground World | The Longest Tunnel in The World
The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is a railway tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland expected to open on 2 June 2016. With a route length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, it will be the world’s longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat low-level route through the Alps.
The project consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden). It is part of the AlpTransit project, also known as the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA), which includes the Lötschberg Base Tunnel between the cantons of Bern and Valais and the under construction Ceneri Base Tunnel (scheduled to open late 2019) to the south. It bypasses the Gotthardbahn, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, which is now operating at capacity, and establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains. It is the third tunnel connecting the cantons of Uri and Ticino after the Gotthard Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
The main purpose of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is to increase total transport capacity across the Alps, especially for freight, notably on the Rotterdam-Basel-Genoa corridor, and more particularly to shift freight volumes from road to rail to reduce fatal crashes and environmental damage caused by ever-increasing numbers of heavy lorries. Another benefit will be to provide a faster connection between the canton of Ticino and the rest of Switzerland, as well as between northern and southern Europe, cutting the Zürich-Lugano-Milan journey time for passenger trains by about an hour and from Lucerne to Bellinzona to 1 hour 25 minutes.
After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the AlpTransit project in a 1992 referendum, tunnel construction began in 1996. Drilling operations in the eastern tunnel were completed on 15 October 2010 in a breakthrough ceremony broadcast live on Swiss TV, and in the western tunnel on 23 March 2011. AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd. plan to hand over the tunnel to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) in operating condition in December 2016; this date was modified to 5 June 2016 on 4 February 2014 with the commencement of an 850-day opening countdown calendar on the AlpTransit homepage. Total cost of the project is 9.8 billion Swiss francs, or US$10.3 billion.
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