Longest Rail Tunnel Opens in Switzerland

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December 11, 2016

Train service through the world's longest tunnel has begun, with the first cars rumbling through the 35-mile-long Gotthard Base tunnel underneath Switzerland.

European leaders, including other heads of state, attended a ceremonial opening of the tunnel in June. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those on the first train through the tunnel; other passengers included hundreds of Swiss citizens who had won tickets in a lottery. It wasn't until December 11 that the first commercial runs began.

The tunnel runs deep through the Swiss Alps, from Zurich to Lugano on a route that cuts the commute or freight time by a half hour. The tunnel route bypasses the winding Gotthard Railway, which opened in 1882 and has been running at capacity for some time.

The tunnel has been designed with speed in mind. Trains can run through the tunnel at speeds up to 155 miles per hour.

The new tunnel is also the world's deepest, at 7,500 feet underneath the surface.

Construction on the tunnel began in 1996. Nine workers died during construction.

The Gotthard Base tunnel is now the longest train tunnel in the world. Japan's Seikan tunnel is second, at 33.4 miles. The "Chunnel" connecting France and Great Britain is third, at 31 miles.

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