Enter The Gotthard Base Tunnel, The Longest Tunnel In The World

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

On December 11, 2016, the 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) — the longest tunnel in the world — began full rail service, allowing passengers to ride underneath the Swiss Alps for a trip from Zurich to Lugano, Switzerland, on the Italian border. The tunnel was under construction for 17 years, and has cut down the previous travel time for the same trip by 30 minutes.

The Backstory

After almost two decades of construction, the Gotthard Base Tunnel officially opened in June 2016, but regular rail service didn't begin running through the passage until December of that year. The tunnel, which at points travels as deep as 1.4 miles beneath the surface, took the title of longest and deepest rail line in the world from the previous record holder, Japan's Seikan Tunnel, which measures 33.5 miles long. The tunnel was built below the Swiss Alps in order to connect the southern and northern parts of Europe.

How's It Going?

Since trains began regularly running through the tunnel in December 2016, "no fewer than 2816 passengers and 3980 freight trains have passed through," according to a press release from Swiss Federal Railways. Still, there have been some challenges since service began, including train delays and limited capacity in the face of large demand. "The trains coming from Zurich are fully occupied, so for a family of four, it's impossible to find a free compartment," according to a statement from the Swiss public transportation lobbyist group, Pro Bahn. While there may still be work to be done, the tunnel hopes to eventually shorten the trip between Switzerland and Italy by a full hour.

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