Gotthard Base Tunnel Becomes World’s Longest Railway Tunnel

The world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened after many years of construction. Trains can travel at speeds of up to 250 km an hour through the 57 km long tunnel. It took 17 years to complete and cost $12 billion. The engineering milestone will bring southern Germany and northern Italy closer together.

The new Gotthard Base Tunnel is also the world’s deepest tunnel, located 2300 metres below Swiss mountain peaks. A total of 2600 workers involved in building the tunnel had to excavate more than 28 million tonnes of rock.

Gottardino shuttle trains will be running between the two endpoints of the tunnel and make a stop at Sedrun, a mountain station in the middle. 65 passenger  and 240 freight trains are expected to travel through the tunnel every day. The Gotthard Base Tunnel  will reduce the time it takes trains to pass through the Alps. A journey from Zurich to Milan, for example,  will be reduced by an hour.

The new tunnel is part of a larger European transportation project that includes two other tunnels in the Alps. Ultimately, the EU plans a high-speed rail connection between its two major harbours, Rotterdam and Genoa.

During the course of history  the Alps have been a natural barrier to travel. In the past traders and merchants had to use mountain passes to travel from north to south. The first Gotthard rail tunnel opened in 1882, but as time went on it could not handle the growing traffic.

In the 1990s, Swiss citizens approved of a government plan to build a new tunnel. How hard such a construction feat would be soon became obvious . In places where there was hard rock boring was extremely slow. Workers could only advance only about half a metre every day.

The new tunnel is expected to reduce road traffic crossing the Alps as more and more lorries and cargo companies will put their freight on Swiss trains.

Gotthard Base Tunnel
Inside the Gotthard Base Tunnel – Image : Hannes Ortlieb

Words

  • advance = move forward
  • approve = to agree with something or to say yes to a plan
  • barrier = a mountain, lake or any other natural object that stops people from going somewhere
  • boring = to make a hole in the mountain by using a special machine
  • cargo = goods carried by a train, ship, lorry, plane etc..
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • course of history = as time went on
  • complete = finish
  • connection = joining or linking two places
  • construction = building
  • engineering = the building of roads, railways bridges etc..
  • excavate = remove earth
  • feat = something very difficult to do
  • freight = goods that are transported from one place to another
  • handle = deal with
  • harbour = place where ships load and load goods
  • high-speed = very fast
  • include = something as part of something else
  • involved = here: worked at the tunnel site
  • journey = trip
  • located = where something lies
  • lorry = truck ; large car that carries goods
  • major = very big and important
  • merchant = person who bought and sold things in the past
  • milestone = an important development in history
  • obvious = easy for everyone to see
  • peak = the top part of a mountain
  • reduce = lower
  • shuttle = train that travels regularly between two places
  • speed = how fast something is
  • Swiss = from Switzerland
  • ultimately = here: when the whole project is finished
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