The world's longest and deepest railway tunnel has opened in Switzerland


The world's longest railway tunnel has been officially opened in Switzerland.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel has taken 17 years to build at a cost of 12.2 billion Swiss francs (£8.4 billion).

The tunnel runs 35.4 miles (57km) through the Alps between the German-speaking town of Erstfeld in the north and Italian-speaking Bodio in the south.

Snappa graphic on the new train tunnel in Switzwerland

It is hoped it will cut travel times, ease road traffic and take cargo away from pollution-spewing lorries trucking between Europe's north and south.

Once it opens for commercial service in December, the two-way tunnel will take up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day.

It eclipses Japan's 33.4-mile (53.9km) Seikan Tunnel as the world's longest and burrows deeper - 1.4 miles (2.3km) - than any other rail tunnel.

Snappa graphic on the new train tunnel in Switzwerland

The project has received financial support and industrial know-how from around the European Union.

Though Switzerland is not one of the EU's 28 members, the railway network will get a major boost from the shortcut through the Alps - notably on the route from Germany to Italy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended the opening.

Almost 2,000 additional Swiss troops have been called in to help keep watch this week, and air space restrictions are in place in the area.