Engineers and miners celebrating the breakthrough. Photo BBC.
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At 14:17 CET today, Friday 15 October, ‘Sissi’, a massive tunnelling machine, broke through the last few meters of rock at the Gotthard Base Tunnel so creating the world’s longest tunnel. With a length of 35.4 miles (57 km), the tunnel is a tad under 2 miles longer than the previous record holder, the 33.5 mile long undersea Seikan tunnel, linking the islands of Honsiu i Hokkaido in Japan. The construction costs of some £8.5 billion are being funded by Swiss taxpayers, who are paying more than £800 each to fund the project. Voters approved the construction of the rail tunnel in a series of referendums nearly 20 years ago. In 1994, they also voted to limit the number of heavy goods trucks allowed to cross the Alps each year to 650,000 – halving the current load – within two years of the tunnel’s opening at the end of 2017.
The project is part of the AlpTransit project, also known as the New Railway Link through the Alps, which also includes the Lötschberg Base Tunnel between the cantons of Bern and Valais. It will bypass the Gotthardbahn, a winding mountain route, which includes the 1881 Gottard Rail Tunnel, and will provide a much more direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains.
The New Railway Link through the Alps NRLA / Alptransit project in Switzerland with Gotthard and Zimmerberg base tunnels. Montage cooper.ch via Wikipedia.
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More pictures of the breakthrough: