The new 57km long Gotthard Base Tunnel will make travelling by train in Europe more efficient and smoother.
The new 57km long Gotthard Base Tunnel will make travelling by train in Europe more efficient and smoother. Contributed

Swiss precision on show with world's longest train tunnel

THE world's longest train tunnel, connecting the north and south of Switzerland, even Germany and Italy, has just opened.

The new 57km long Gotthard Base Tunnel has been in the making for the past 17 years, involving 2600 workers from various countries, and will make travelling by train in Europe even more efficient and smoother than it already is.

The Alp Transit Gotthard Company launched this pioneering project in 1999 to significantly improve the connection between the German and Italian cantons of the country.

This revolutionary flat track through the Alps symbolises Swiss precision, technological innovation and railway reliability.

It is already lauded as a masterpiece of engineering excellence, representing a key contribution to the future of public transport in Europe.

The scale of it rather takes the breath away.

I well remember the first time I travelled in Switzerland, and it was neither smooth nor efficient.

On the back of a motorbike in 1969 with my then new husband, the memories of those travels over the Alps is all about icy winds slashing at my face like sharp steel knives, about bone-chilling coldness that permeated every part of the body, and above all... aching buttocks.

Sitting on the back of a motorbike for up to five hours a day in 1969 was not the most comfortable way to see Switzerland but it was, for a young couple, cheap.

Now in our mature years, it must be comfort when we travel in Switzerland the most scenic country in the world in our opinion.

Train travel in Switzerland is so reliable you can count on the train arriving or departing the very minute they say it will.

Of course you won't see much in the new state-of-the-art Gotthard Base Tunnel, but you will be zoomed efficiently and quietly through it to all the other splendour that is Switzerland.

While the new tunnel will further enhance Switzerland's international acclaim as a public transport paradise, the existing tunnel remains a guardian of its past.

But classic railway enthusiasts do not fear.

The historical Gotthard route dating back to 1882 will continue to contribute to travel and tourism in this alpine region.

You will still be able to travel on the existing Gotthard route that will operate parallel to the new Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Trains will still ply their panoramic route over the countless bridges and through seven loop tunnels exposing passengers to jaw-dropping scenery.

Switzerland Tourism director Mark Wettstein says the new Gotthard tunnel will not only help travellers within Switzerland get between the north and south in a more effective and time-efficient manner, cutting travel time by about 30 minutes between Basel or Zurich to Ticino, and 40 minutes between Lucerne and Ticino, but also beyond the borders of the country, so travellers can spend more time discovering the places to which they are travelling.

The current travel time between Zurich and Milan is four hours, but by 2020, this exact journey will take less than three hours.

Getting around

A Swiss Travel Pass provides unlimited access to Switzerland's public transportation including buses, trains and boats; up to 50% off mountain railways and cable cars; free access to more than 480 museums around the country; and free travel for children under 16 years when accompanied by a guardian using the pass.

More on website: raileurope.com.au



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