world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel officially opens after 17 years of work
all images courtesy of SBB




on june 1st, 2016, 17 years after the first blast, the world’s longest railway tunnel, ‘the gotthard base tunnel’ will officially open. named after the patron saint of traveling merchants, st. gotthard, it has virtually no gradients and its highest point is 550 meters above sea level. the construction marvel at 57 kilometers in length, will allow 325 trains per day (260 freight and 65 passenger) to travel more quickly through the alps and reduce the number of locomotives needed by freight trains.

the tunnel entrance at night




passenger trains will generally travel through the tunnel at a speed of up to 200 km/h – with future speeds topping at 250 km/h. the reduction in journey times will gradually become noticeable from 2016 onwards. the trip between zurich to milan will be an estimated one hour shorter then before. 

the tunnel is 57 kilometers in length




during peak periods, around 2,400 people were working on the tunnel construction around the clock in three shifts. each of 8.5 meters in diameter main tunnels were 80% drilled with boring machines and 20% blasted. for the two mains and the safety, ventilation and cross cuts, a total of 152 kilometers of tunnel was bored – that’s 28.2 million tonnes of excavate rock.gotthard-base-tunnel-completion-designboom-05




a sore point for the swiss people is the cost of the ‘gotthard base tunnel.’ decided in a referendum, the effective total cost of the project is 12.2 billion swiss francs ($12.3 billion USD). it was finished a year ahead of schedule due to the fact that tunnelers worked on different sections at the same time. workers, materials and machinery were transported to the construction sites in the mountain via access galleries and shafts. with rock cover up to 2,300 meters in the depth, the ‘gotthard base tunnel’ is also the deepest rail tunnel in the world. the temperature inside the mountain reached as high as 50°C. 

gotthard-base-tunnel-completion-designboom-06the bore machine used for the project gotthard-base-tunnel-completion-designboom-07
80% of the tunnel was bored 

the train entrance at bodio, switzerland  

the breakthrough in the main part in 2010



video courtesy of SBB



watch a detailed documentary about the construction of the gotthard tunnel
video courtesy of the science channel