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After 14 years of construction work, Swiss engineers are about to smash through the last pieces of rock to complete the digging of the world’s longest transport tunnel. The two ends of the 57km (35 mile) Gotthard rail tunnel will meet and the event will be broadcast live on Swiss TV, and watched by transport ministers across Europe.
The 9.8bn Swiss franc ($10.3 billion) project will take up to 300 trains each day underneath the Alps at speeds of 250km/h (155mph). The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Switzerland says the impetus behind the project came from concerns that the amount of freight traffic rumbling over the Alps was damaging the environment.
The length of the Gotthard tunnel will exceed the 53.8km Seikan rail tunnel linking the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, and the 50km Channel Tunnel linking England and France.
“The Gotthard will forever be a spectacular and grandiose monument with which all tunnels will be compared,” said Swiss Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger.
Some 2,500 people have worked on the tunnel, and eight people have lost their lives during the construction
The tunnel is expected to open to trains in 2017, when it will slash journey times between Zurich and Milan.
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