SWITZERLAND celebrated a true feat of engineering in efficient Swiss style. The much anticipated opening of the longest and deepest tunnel in the world, which took 17 years to build, is 57 kilometres (35 miles) long and cost $12bn (€10.75) to build.
It is longer than the previous record holder, the Seikan Tunnel, which opened in Japan in 1988 (53.9 kilometres) and the Eurotunnel (50.5 kilometres which connects England to France and opened in 1994.
A lavish opening ceremony led by Swiss Federal President, Johann Schneider-Ammann, was held at the northern entrance to the tunnel in Erstfeld and was fed by live relay to the southern end in Bodio where Swiss Federal Minster, Doris Leuthard hosted the celebrations.
The event was attended by European Leaders including German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President, Francois Hollande. During his speech, Mr Hollande referred to the upcoming UK Referendum in reminding the British people about the unification of Europe when the Eurotunnel opened in 1994. A showcase of Alpine culture and history was then unveiled at Erstfeld.
Two trains set off from each end of the tunnel filled with hundreds of guests who had won tickets in a draw as well as the VIP guests in attendance.
The journey through the time is 20 minutes from one end to the other with the trains travelling at 250km per hour (155mph). It is anticipated that it will decrease the 1 million Lorries which usually carry cargo in the region which can now be carried by train.
In referring to the completed construction in which 2,600 people were employed, the Swiss President said, “This is a giant step for Switzerland but equally our neighbours and the rest of the continent”.