More than 160,000 people applied to be one of just 1,000 people who will be the first passengers to travel through the Gotthard Base Tunnel today.
The journey will start from Arth-Goldbau and Bellinzona and mark the official opening of the world’s longest rail tunnel, which is expected to be attended by numerous local, regional and national Swiss dignitaries.
The ceremony marks the end of almost two decades of construction to build the 57km tunnel. While the main focus of today’s events are a celebration of the achievement, a services was held yesterday in memory of the nine workers who lost their lives during the work.
Commenting on the completion of the project, CH2M managing director of the tunnels and earth engineering practice Martin Knights said: “This is a huge engineering achievement. The world’s longest train tunnel at 57km, and the machinery used to carve a passage through the mountain is a feat in itself – it is akin to a ‘moving factory’ half a kilometre in length.
“I’m pleased to see the vision finally come to life, and to see the project benefit from the major technical advances in tunnel boring machines made in the 1960s and 70s.”
The opening of the £8.2bn tunnel is expected to revolutionise freight transport in Europe by taking 1M lorries off the roads each year. Passenger services will start in December and reduce journey times between Zurich and Milan by one hour.
The first goods trains are expected to pass through the tunnel on 3 June.