World’s longest tunnel opens in Switzerland
With political unity on the continent shaken by a massive influx of migrants and the looming threat of Britain’s EU departure, Swiss president Johan Schneider-Amman said the tunnel would “join the people and the economies” of Europe. He spoke before the 57-kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) made its ceremonial first run with European leaders on board.
The passengers included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
While the tunnel was entirely funded by non-EU member Switzerland, the bloc’s transport commissioner Violeta Bulc has hailed it as “a godsend” for the continent.
It runs from Erstfeld in the central canton of Uri, to Bodio in the southern Ticino canton.
Travel through the Alpine region, by rail or by road, requires taking a zigzag and undulating route.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel was designed to offer a better option for both private travellers and commercial freights.
When the full service opens in December, the tunnel will shave the train journey from Zurich to Milan in northern Italy down to two hours and 40 minutes, roughly an hour less than it currently takes.