Engineers began drilling beneath the Swiss Alps 14 years ago, with the aim of creating the world’s longest railway tunnel.
The 35.4 mile long Gotthard Tunnel, which has cost £6 billion will speed up railway connections between northern Europe and Italy, overtaking Japan’s 33.5 mile long Seikan Tunnel which is currently the world’s longest.
The first tunnel under the Gotthard Pass, completed in 1882, was nine miles long – a record at the time. Only six feet of rock now separate the two tunnelling teams and the final breakthrough is scheduled soon.
An estimated 850 million cubic feet of debris have been removed during the construction of the tunnel, that’s the equivalent of five Cheops Pyramids. The digging machines cut into the rock at the rate of 50-65ft a day, grinding slowly through the mountain’s base.
Once the excavation is completed, work will begin on laying down railway tracks, signals and safety systems. There will be emergency stop stations every 12.5 miles where passengers could be evacuated in the event of a train crash or fire.
The tunnel is scheduled to open in December 2017, with trains travelling at 155mph, shortening the travelling time between Milan and Zurich by one hour.
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