The epic Gotthard Base Tunnel connecting Zurich, Milan, and Turin is almost finished.
The authorities announced earlier this week that most of the technical work on the tunnel, financed entirely by Switzerland at a cost of around $10.3 billion, has been completed, Tribune de Genève reported (link in French). Testing on the tunnel will begin on Oct. 1 and the Federal Office of Transport is expected to give the green light for safety in the following weeks. The tunnel includes nearly 24 additional miles of tunnel and ventilation shafts that were built, which will be used for passenger evacuation in case of emergency, TDG reports.
Almost 2,000 workers have labored since 1999 to excavate 31 million tons of earth from beneath the mountains, Business Insider reported. German-made boring machines have been used to cut through layers of hard gneiss and granite rock.
The tunnel is 35 miles (56 km) in length, making it officially the longest in the world—longer than previously reigning Japan’s 14.5-mile Seikan tunnel. (In 2013, China announced its $42.4-billion plans for a project to build a tunnel under the Bohai Sea that would be an estimated 76 miles long, but it is not nearly complete.)
The travel time via train between Zurich, Lugano, and Milan will soon be an hour faster. The trains will run at 150 miles per hour, a speed which will be possible to maintain because the inside of the tunnel is completely flat, unlike the peaks of the Alps. The first freight trains are expected to begin officially running in June 2016.
Before then, TDG reports that there will be a maiden voyage through the tunnel of 1,000 people—the selection process for which will begin in January 2016.