The 16,000 feet high, stunning Alps are a nuisance to the commuters traveling across Southern and Northern Europe. The mountain range is a bottleneck in the long-distance European travel. However, June 1st will witness a new era of the cross-Europe traveling with the inauguration of the world’s longest railway tunnel in Switzerland.
The extensive 35.5 miles long tunnel, named the Gotthard Base Tunnel snakes underneath the Alps, connecting the Swiss valleys with the plains of North Italy. Buried more than 8000 feet below the mountains, the tunnel is an engineering marvel as never before has a tunnel been constructed so deep into the earth. Understandably, it took a massive 28 million tons of excavated stones and earth to build this tunnel.
The project of the Gotthard Base Tunnel was approved in 1992 while the work began in 1996. The tunnel was completed in 2011 and by the time the project reached crossed the finish line, the aggregate cost was more than $10.3 billion. If anything, the investment of time and money depicts sheer determination of the Swiss nation.
The Inauguration and the Entailed Benefits of the Gotthard Base Tunnel
The nearly horizontal layout of the trail will ensure that the trains could now reach speeds as high as 150 miles an hour. Therefore, the travel time from Zurich to Milan will reduce to two and a half hours, which currently takes almost five hours.
However, the tunnel has more to do with the plans of laying out a massive railway network across Europe to make the freight shipment efficient and more cost-effective. Eventually, this system of cargo carriage will ensure that the time as well as cost is reduced as the significant chunk of goods transit shifts to the railroads. In the long run, this will result in reduced traffic on the highways, reducing both the traffic congestion as well as air pollution.
The cross-Europe rail network will consist of tracks running from Rotterdam in the Netherlands south to Genoa on the Mediterranean Coast, the Semmering Base Tunnel, the Brenner Pass and the Koralm Tunnel in Austria, and finally, a high-speed link train from Lyon in France with Turin via high-speed rail.
The current set of railroad tracks in the Alpine hills is more picturesque than efficient, and therefore more appealing to tourists than the regular commuters. This new system of tunnels and trains will reduce the travel time significantly.
Though the Gotthard Base Tunnel promises of a much brighter and cleaner future, it has still a long way to go. More active cooperation among the EU will be required to turn this dream into a reality.