After 17 years of construction and 12 billion EUR invested, the first passenger speed train passed through the Gotthard Tunnel, which passes through the Swiss Alps.
The train passed through the longest tunnel in the world (57 kilometers), which was officially opened six months ago. The opening was attended by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
First speed train EC11 embarked on the journey at 6:09 am from Zurich to Lugano. It took the train 20 minutes to pass the tunnel because the speed of the train is 250 kilometers per hour, thus shortening the journey from the north to the south of Switzerland by half an hour.
Additional 30 minutes of the journey will be saved when the Ceneri tunnel opens in 2020. Then the journey from Zurich to Milano will last around two hours. Fifty passenger trains and 260 freight trains will pass through the tunnel every day, which is twice more than today.
The project cost more than 12 billion EUR and engineers had to dig deep under the ground to break through different layers of stone, hard as granite and soft as sugar. More than 28 million tons of stone were dug out and nine workers were killed during the construction. The biggest depth is 2.300 meters, which makes it the deepest tunnel as well.
The main goal of the construction of this tunnel was to increase freight railway traffic in Switzerland and reduce the number of accidents caused by freight trucks. It is expected that the number of passengers in railway traffic will increase from the current 9.000 to 15.000 by 2020. The tunnel is financed from the VAT on fuel, tolls for freight vehicles, and a state loan which will be repaid within ten years.
This project was supported by the European Union countries. At the opening, Merkel said that this tunnel is the symbol of connecting people in Europe.
“The tunnel will connect people and cultures and reinforce the existing connections. I think this is beautiful,” said Merkel.