Sunday, August 21, 2016

World's Longest and Deepest Train Tunnel Opens

The world's longest and deepest rail tunnel has officially opened in Switzerland, after almost two decades of construction work. The 57km (35-mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe.
The tunnel has overtaken Japan's 53.9km Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5km Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France into third place. 
The project cost $12bn and was delivered on time and within budget. But nine workers died in accidents. Engineers had to go through 73 different kinds of rock, some as hot as 46C. All freight passing through Switzerland is to use the tunnel to reduce environmental pollution. The trip from Zurich to Milan should be two hours and 40 minutes, an hour less than the old route. It takes 17 minutes to traverse the straight and level tunnel. [] Removing an hour from the trip also removes the chances of being stuck on the road for many hours because of an accident.

When my wife and I visited Switzerland in the Fall of 2012, I remember reading brochures about this tunnel. One of the issues is whether or not it was close enough to big dams and the rock was porous enough that water would leak out of the dam's reservoir into the tunnel. There was also concern of lowering the water table under the dam and changing the strength of the rock around the dam enough to cause the dam to break. Evidently these problems did not happen.

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