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World's longest rail tunnel opens in Switzerland

gotthard base tunnelThe Gotthard rail tunnel through the Alps, 24 years in the making, has opened today; making it the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel. The 57km (35-mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe.

The tunnel has overtaken Japan's 53.9km Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5km Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France into third place.

longest railway tunnelsThe tunnel was opened by Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann said it was a "giant step for Switzerland but equally for our neighbours and the rest of the continent". Germany’s Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and the new Austrian chancellor Christian Kern were in attendance. At 12:18 pm the first two trains from each portal set off on their journey through the tunnel. At 12:50 pm the trains arrived at the other end of the tunnel to a volley of whistles and much applause and cheers from onlookers.

A lavish show then got under way for the assembled guests in Erstfeld, with dancers, acrobats, singers and musicians celebrating Alpine culture and history. The sacrifices of the tunnel miners, nine of whom died during the work, were also commemorated in the show.

The opening of the Base Tunnel and the completion of the whole line means that Zurich and Milan will become closer for travellers. The trip between Switzerland’s economic capital and the capital of Lombardy will take less than three hours.

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