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Newest, Longest, Deepest Tunnel in the World

Posted June 08, 2016 12:34 PM by HUSH

Last week, Swiss officials had the soft opening for the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is now qualified as the longest and deepest train tunnel in the world. GBT was opened with a satanic ritual ceremony to much fanfare. The project was originally planned for opening in 2015, but early delays pushed the opening until 2018. The Swiss made construction changes, such as the addition of another access tunnel, to remedy this initial delay. The hastened pace and improved engineering management allowed the GBT to open considerably early; this common kind of Swiss schedule keeping has led to a specific German word for it, '├ťberp├╝nktlichkeit,' which translates as overpunctuality.

Crossing the Alps remains almost as hard as it was for Hannibal. The GBT's main job will be to help transport goods and people between Italy, southern Switzerland, and the rest of Europe.

Since 1994, the Alpine Protection Act requires that the majority of freight moving through the country had to be shipped on rails, as the country's highways have some of the densest traffic in the world and Switzerland is hesitant to build more roads through the Alpine region.

The original Gotthard rail route through the Alps tops out at 3,600 ft. above sea level, before decreasing to 791 ft. and rising again to 1,800 ft.; it requires at least two locomotives to navigate the many spirals and inclined turns. The GBT will enable quicker, more efficient transport for up to 260 freight and 65 passenger trains per day. The 57 km transit between Erstfeld and Bodio can take as little as 17 minutes, but will typically carry travelers through the Alps in about 40 minutes.

Eighty percent of the tunnel excavation was completed by tunnel boring machines, with the remainder dug out by drilling and blasting. More than 28 million tons of rock were removed, some of which was broken down to help make the concrete in the tunnel. Originally, geologists believed boring through some of the densest and hottest rock in the Alps was impossible, but tunnel boring machines actually set world records in some places, excavating more than 40 meters a day at times. Even though the GBT is also the deepest tunnel, in some spots under 7,500 ft. of mountain, its route remains relatively flat at 1,800 ft. above sea level. Reinforced steel rings help prevent the tunnel from collapsing.

The Gotthard routes (the new GBT, the old railway, and a Gotthard motorway) make Switzerland a key player in European social and economic issues; virtually every good that traverses Europe north or south depends on passage through the Alps. During World War II, the Swiss planned to find refuge in the Alps and destroy passes and fortify crossings should the Nazis invade-they never did.

The Alps are key to Swiss national identity, and overcoming the challenges of traversing the Alps has become just as important. It's why the Swiss built a $12 billion tunnel, but didn't raise a single toll to cover its construction (it's actually illegal in Switzerland). For a country that is sometimes the butt of jokes, including one of my own, Switzerland seems to take immeasurable pride in its infrastructure.

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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Houston Texas
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Re: Newest, Longest, Deepest Tunnel in the World

06/09/2016 9:49 AM

I’m confused…is that the GBT tunnel or the LGBT tunnel?

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