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World's Longest, Deepest Rail Tunnel Opens In Switzerland (latimes.com) 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: More than 2,200 years after the commander from the ancient North African civilization of Carthage led his army of elephants and troops over Europe's highest mountain chain, the Swiss have completed another gargantuan task: burrowing the world's longest railway tunnel under the Swiss Alps to improve European trade and travel. European dignitaries on Wednesday inaugurated the 35.4-mile Gotthard Railway Tunnel, a major engineering achievement deep under the Alps' snow-capped peaks. It took 17 years to build at a cost of 12.2 billion Swiss francs ($12 billion) -- but workers kept to a key Swiss tradition and brought the massive project in on time and on budget. It also bores deeper than any other tunnel, running about 1.4 miles underground at its maximum depth. The thoroughfare aims to cut travel times, ease roadway traffic and reduce the air pollution spewed from trucks traveling between Europe's north and south. Set to open for commercial service in December, the two-way tunnel can handle up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day.
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World's Longest, Deepest Rail Tunnel Opens In Switzerland

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  • Giggity.
    • by Dadoo ( 899435 )

      Did you happen to notice it's called the "Gotthard" (got hard) tunnel?

    • by sfled ( 231432 )
      Promptly nicknamed "Deine Mutter".
  • Lies (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @04:29PM (#52228193)

    Lies. All lies. There's no such thing as tunnels. Or Switzerland, for that matter.

  • by habig ( 12787 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @04:36PM (#52228245) Homepage
    A few years ago when the TBM knocked through the last bit of rock in this tunnel, this cool video of the event might even have been posted on slashdot (can't remember where I ran across it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @04:39PM (#52228279)

    The Gotthard Railway Tunnel was built between 1871 and 1882, and was the world's longest rail tunnel at the time.

    This is the Gotthard Base Tunnel (and there is a third tunnel, the Gotthard Road Tunnel).

    • That Gothard really looks now like a Swiss cheese.

    • "This is the Gotthard Base Tunnel (and there is a third tunnel, the Gotthard Road Tunnel)."

      I have driven this. Yes, there's a freeway going through the heart of the Alps deep underground.

  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @04:41PM (#52228289)

    ... not only because they did it "on budget and in time", which can only mean they didn't go for the cheapest bidder [pinimg.com], but also because it's trains going through the tunnel, only!

    Had this been done in proper US-style, that tunnel would have no place for trains, but one lane reserved to military vehicles and the cars of VIP ticket holders, then another lane for ordinary cars, on which a permanent traffic jam would take you 2 hours mininum to pass the tunnel, if only because of the mandatory TSA strip searching before entering.

    • You forget the toll booth in the middle just before the rest stop.... Local currency, no credit and correct change ONLY!

    • by dlenmn ( 145080 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @05:33PM (#52228743)

      I'm no expert on the AlpTransits project [wikipedia.org] (which includes the Gotthard Base Tunnel and a number of other new tunnels), but the whole project seems to have been on budget in part because they cut stuff. For example, the Loetschberg Base Tunnel [wikipedia.org], which is the second longest tunnel in this project, is opened but not complete. They just stopped part way through and declared it good enough (one bore is up and running -- I've been through it -- but the other isn't finished). Or, as wikipedia puts it:

      Due to the soaring costs of the AlpTransit initiative, funds were diverted to the Gotthard Base Tunnel; and the LBT [Loetschberg Base Tunnel] is only half finished.

      Even worse, work on the Zimmerberg Base Tunnel [wikipedia.org] is suspended -- possibly without plans to complete it.

      The whole "on budget and in time" thing doesn't sound so miraculous in context: the Gotthard Base Tunnel is part of a larger project that is neither on time nor on budget. However, the Swiss government sure did a good job spinning it that way.

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      I was actually pretty thrown for a loop the first time I went through the chunnel, which is also a train-only system. It totally makes sense, but threw me for a loop.

    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @06:45PM (#52229241)

      Putting cars in there makes the whole project way more challenging. Trains you can supply with electricity to move and their own internal illumination is sufficient. If you put a large number of cars or trucks through there you have to have significantly stronger ventilation systems and you need to illuminate the tunnel to a much greater degree.

      On top of that you need to factor in a much higher risk of crashes and hence fire risk, which means more escape tunnels, fire bunkers, and other systems that would otherwise not be required.

      Add on to that that these tunnels are only 9m in diameter which is not wide enough for anything other than a single lane road. As a comparison the Clem7 tunnel in Brisbane is 12.5m in diameter to accommodate 2 lanes.

      • Just to let you know this is not a single tube tunnel. The Gotthard tunnel project is composed of 3 tubes (one for each direction + evacuation like the Channel Tunnel ) + a very large station mid-way to allow train to change tunnels in case of problem. The total length is over 150km.
        • I did know that. I meant each tunnel is only good for one lane. The Clem 7 example I used is a twin tunnel system, each tunnel is 12.5m in diameter though not even comparable in length.

  • Pollution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @04:52PM (#52228399)
    At first I wasn't clear on how the tunnel would reduce pollution. Won't the bad gases just come out of the tunnel? But of course, the idea is the tunnel will shift cargo transport from trucks to trains. Presumably trains produce less pollution. Or at least less trash littering the "pristine Swiss landscape"
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I assume it's also a more direct route, or they wouldn't have gone through a mountain to build it.
      Trains are also much more efficient than trucks.

    • by mriya3 ( 803189 )
      Indeed, trains produce less pollution than trucks, as they run on electrical propulsion. Moreover, in Switzerland 56% of the produced energy comes from hydropower plants and 38% from nuclear.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 )

        Indeed, trains produce less pollution than trucks, as they run on electrical propulsion

        Really? You must be thinking of those things that carry a bunch of office workers into the city in the mornings. I assure you by far the largest proportion of freight trains in Switzerland (and indeed all of the EU) are diesel powered.

        Mind you it is still orders of magnitude lower in emissions than using a diesel truck.

        • Re:Pollution (Score:5, Informative)

          by mriya3 ( 803189 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @06:59PM (#52229305) Homepage
          ehm... I do live in Switzerland, and 99% of all trains (either passenger or freight) run on electrical power
          • Most freight trains do NOT start and end in Switzerland which let's face it is quite the tiny country. They may switch to electricity for your portion of the trip, but it's still diesel vs diesel for the vast majority of InterEuro freight. But hey as I said it's still far more efficient than trucks.

            • According to Wikipedia fully 50% of all rail transport was carried by electric traction world wide. As Europe is dense and highly industrialised I would imagine the figure for European rail to be substantially higher, so "majority" of InterEuro freight being diesel can't be nearly true.

              I can't find any numbers for Europe but again Wikipedia says that electrification in Europe is "widespread". Since freight has to run at higher speeds in Europe (more congested tracks) the added power from electrical drive al

            • by mriya3 ( 803189 )
              ... one of the most important freight routes is between Genova (Italy) and Rotterdam (Netherlands): according to last year's EU report *1, in Italy 71% of the railroad infrastructure is electrified, in Switzerland it is 100%, in Germany 60%, in Netherlands 76.1%... According to another report *2, in 2009 in Europe "Around 80% of rail traffic is performed with electrified trains.", in a newer report *3 you can also compare the EU situation (p.35- Fig. 29) with USA (p.42 - Fig. 42). *1 http://ec.europa.eu/tr [europa.eu]
              • Lots of things are electrified, and you see lots of diesel locos driving on these electric lines. Simple reason is the longer you haul the more likely you are to find an area you can't cross with electricity. That's why you see 100% numbers for Switzerland despite them still using some diesel locos. Like wise in the Netherlands. The lines to the port of Rotterdam are all electrified and that's the major freight terminal, yet I rarely see an electric locomotive on them.

            • by jcdr ( 178250 )

              No freight or passenger train, Swiss or foreign, will cross Switzerland on normal operation with a diesel locomotive, granted. There are railway cross-country agreement on this.

              Exchanging locomotive on a station near the border was for a long time a usual process because historically the electrical locomotive was not designed to handle efficiently the different railway electrical standards (different frequency and voltage) used by each countries and the old Gotthard Tunnel needed special strong power electr

            • by fgouget ( 925644 )
              It's not just Switzerland. In France most trains run on electricity too. Don't get your train facts from Mission Impossible [imdb.com] ;-)
        • by jcdr ( 178250 )

          The only diesel locomotives in Switzerland are either to maneuver on an few special small tracks no electrified that still exists (usually to reach private docks), or special emergency train (fire fighter train) that need to operate even in case on electric failure. In normal operation, you will never see a diesel locomotive on any train, freight or passenger, Swiss or foreign.

          So yes, this have a major pollution and noise impact, especially on small valleys out there, and this is the major point that motiva

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I keep running into you but only because you say some really weird shit at times. These days even very large mining trucks are electric and electric freight trains are likely to have been very widespread since long before you were born. While on very long runs diesel-electric locomotives are the go instead of electric in this case we are discussing Europe where you don't need to power a train 500km from the nearest power station.
          Mass electrification of rail was a 1970s thing in a lot of the world.
    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      I think the problem is that the current railway, the Gotthardbahn, is already operating at capacity, and the freight that does not fit in it goes to the lorries. A massive amount of lorries.

      I would make a joke about truckers being able to litter the road even if the trucks were electric, but taking into account that these are Swiss truckers, it wouldn't work.

      • by jcdr ( 178250 )

        The vast majority of trucks on this axis are foreign trucks crossing the country, usually between Italy and Germany. There have to pay a significant tax to use the Swiss roads (that partially financed the new tunnel). When the new Gotthard Base Tunnel will be operating freight trains, the this tax will rise to a dissuasive level.

    • I think you're right. This is one of the areas where the US is greener than Europe.

      A much greater percentage of freight in America is carried by train than that carried by train in Europe. European trains are largely passenger, while US trains are largely freight (I've read that less than 10% of European freight is carried by train, versus 40%+ for the US). As we've seen over the last year, there's no such thing as clean diesel, and diesel trucks are notoriously dirty (not to mention clogging up highways, c

      • According to this [europa.eu], trains accounted for 18.2% of freight in EU. But it seems to be varying a lot by country. The same page says that "between one third and two fifths of the inland freight transported in Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia was carried by rail in 2013; this was also the case in Switzerland."

      • by jcdr ( 178250 )

        You completely missed the point: European freight trains in that region are almost exclusively (if not totally) powered by electricity. This make them a lot greener than than the dirty US diesel freight trains.

    • From the article:

      The thoroughfare aims to cut travel times, ease roadway traffic and reduce the air pollution spewed from trucks traveling between Europe's north and south. Set to open for commercial service in December, the two-way tunnel can handle up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day.

      The cheapest and least polluting way to transport cargo over land is train. This also applies to people. So people taking the train instead of cars alone would definitely help with pollution. The tunnel also cuts down on travel time.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Then why is it cheaper to take a greyhound bus than it is to take a train?
        • by jcdr ( 178250 )

          There exist a road tunnel for almost the same route, but it would take more than 1 hour at 80-100km/h to make the same travel than the train is 20 minutes at near 250km/h also because the many road curves add to the distance. In addition the road tunnel and urban area are easily saturated, compared to the fact that the Swiss trains are usually on time.

        • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

          It doesn't necessarily have to be. I just did a search from NYC to LA for a random date (July 30th) and the fares were within $3 of each other. OK so technically Greyhound was still cheaper, but I think most would say they are close enough to say they are essentially the same price.

    • Even if these were diesel trains (they're actually electric), there would be a significant reduction in pollution because trains are incredibly efficient and trucks are not. All things being equal, a gallon of diesel fuel will move one ton of cargo over 200 miles on a railroad (or over 400 miles, depending on your reference [wikipedia.org]). Trucks are nowhere close to that efficient.

      It's hard to overstate how efficient trains are at moving cargo; no other land method comes close. (You can only do better on boats/barges.)

      • by jcdr ( 178250 )

        It's hard to overstate how efficient trains are at moving cargo; no other land method comes close. (You can only do better on boats/barges.)

        I highly doubt that a boat or barge can be more efficient giving the energy loss to displace the water. Displacing air only use far less energy. In addition, a train front surface is ridiculously small, making it extremely aerodynamic.

        • The added efficiency is mostly because of the scale of the ships involved. While locomotive engines are huge (they are used on small shipping ships, huge mining trucks, and as stationary backup generators as well) they don't hold a candle to large marine diesels used on the biggest ships. I could easily stand in the cylinder of the largest ship engines while I might be able to get my foot and lower leg into a locomotive engine cylinder. Also ships are slower and when loaded have a huge mass, even larger tha
    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      And there is a second aspect. The tunnel runs without much height difference, thus the energy necessary to pull a train first up the mountain and than the energy necessary to brake the train coming down the mountain won't be used. The tunnel tracks instead are mainly flat and can be run in with constant speed. The old Gotthard rail tunnel is much shorter, was built on higher elevation and needs extensive ramps with many bends and loops through the mountains to get to.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @05:13PM (#52228571)

    Among the performances was a topless dancer wearing giant wings who soared over orange-suited dancers as they crawled on the ground below.

    At another point, humans dressed like bales of hay were seen swaying on a flatbed before running around on the floor.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

    • by Barnoid ( 263111 )

      Among the performances was a topless dancer wearing giant wings who soared over orange-suited dancers as they crawled on the ground below.

      At another point, humans dressed like bales of hay were seen swaying on a flatbed before running around on the floor.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

      Don't forget, this is Europe where people are not scared stiff by topless women and worry that their children become sexual predators because seeing a pair of nipples.

    • by jcdr ( 178250 )

      For your understanding this part of the spectacle is a representation of the death planing over the tunnel workers and taking 9 of them during the 17 years of the project. This is an analogy of the raptors that fly in the region that take small animals like marmot that also live in that region.

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @05:29PM (#52228719)

    Wikipedia tells me that temperature increases roughly by 25 degrees C per km of depth so, that would be about 58 degrees C... however apparently the actual temperature at that depth is 46 degrees. [wikipedia.org] So... hellishly hot, but not as hot as expected. What accounts for the difference, is the crust thicker there because of the weight of the alps?

    • Ah, I see, the claimed 2.4km depth is the depth below the peak of the of the highest mountain peak the tunnel passes under. OK, now I'm impressed by the fact that the ground temperature increases significantly just by being deep inside a mountain, not deep below sea level as for example in a South African gold mine.

    • Interesting.
      Very wild guess: could it be because the mountains on top of the tunnel have more surface to radiate the heat away than a standard, flat terrain?

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @06:12PM (#52229025)

    +1 for digging world's most awesome tunnel, ever.
    -1 for coming up with this. [youtube.com]

    • by jcdr ( 178250 )

      The purpose of the spectacle is deliberately to show the fear, the belief, the death attached to that mountain. The massive, heavy, dirty, noisy and dangerous work of building the multiple tunnels over here that require discipline, determination, and some kind of abnegation. This is not funny, just to remain to the politics that watched the spectacle this was not an easy task, and definitively not as easy as watching this spectacle.

      So I personally give a +1 for that spectacle that honors the performances of

  • Now everyone wants to put a train in that tunnel.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers