Lonely Planet Writer

Gotthard’s new railway tunnel set to become the longest in the world

Switzerland will officially open the world’s longest railway tunnel in the middle of next week.

Work on the Gotthard Base Tunnel will culminate with the opening of the world's longest tunnel next week
Work on the Gotthard Base Tunnel will culminate with the opening of the world’s longest tunnel next week Image by Kecko / CC BY 2.0

The Gotthard base tunnel is a 57-kilometre stretch of railway line running under the Alps. It bypasses part of the famous Gotthard railway between the districts (cantons) of Ticino and Uri.

The new Gotthard tunnel is 2,330 metres below the Swiss Alps
The new Gotthard tunnel is 2,300 metres below the Swiss Alps Image by Franco Pecchio / CC BY 2.0

The tunnel is part of a New Rail Link through the Alps which also includes a further two tunnels in Lötschberg and Ceneri. The construction has been in the planning process since 1992 when it was first approved.

The Focus newspaper reports that the Gotthard tunnel will relegate the 53-kilometre Seikan tunnel in Japan to second place when it is officially inaugurated on 1 June.

The Channel Tunnel between Britain and France runs to a length of 50 kilometres, making it the third longest tunnel.

The Gotthard Tunnel with over 2300 metres of rock over it will become the deepest rail tunnel in the world, according to construction firm, Alp Transit.

Historically, the oldest Gotthard railway line dates back 134 years and it has maintained its importance as a trade route through the Alps for both northern and southern Europe.

More than 26 million tonnes of freight is shifted every year by trains via this route – and the volume of transportation continues to rise.

Because it has virtually no gradient, the twin-tube tunnel is able to bear heavier and longer trains. It also increases the capacity to 260 freight trains each day, an increase of 80 per day on the existing line.

The new Gotthard line further reduces by 30 kilometres the route between Altdorf and Bellinzona, allowing trains to travel more quickly through the Alps.

Passenger trains will depart every 30 minutes, attaining speeds of up to 250km/hr inside the tunnel.