World's longest railway tunnel to be inaugurated

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The world's longest railway tunnel will be ceremonially opened on June 1 and final preparations are currently underway, a source with the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT) said Wednesday.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, hewn through mountain rock and providing a high-speed rail connection between northern and southern Europe, will become one of the main rail links across the Alps and the longest in the world, with a length of about 57.1 km.

"While the first setting-up work operations for the great festival are being executed, inside the Gotthard Base Tunnel final tests and completion work are taking place," the FOT source said.

Heads of state and government of Switzerland's neighbouring countries, as well as the transport ministers of the countries along the Rotterdam-Genoa freight corridor, as well as 1,100 guests and 300 media representatives are expected to attend the official ceremony of the opening of the tunnel.

On the following weekend of June 4 and 5, visitors can travel through the world's longest railway tunnel in special trains, the Swiss government source said.

The commercial services for the tunnel is scheduled from December of 2016.

After 64 percent of Swiss voters accepted the AlpTransit project in a 1992 referendum, construction of the tunnel began in 1996, with the total cost for the project setting as 9.8 billion Swiss francs, or 10.3 billion U.S. dollars.

The main purpose of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is to increase total transport capacity across the Alps, especially for freight, notably on the Rotterdam-Basel-Genoa corridor, and more particularly to shift freight volumes from road to rail to reduce fatal crashes and environmental damage caused by ever-increasing numbers of heavy lorries.

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