First full day of service for Gotthard rail tunnel

A proud day for the Swiss, and an exciting day for train enthusiasts worldwide Keystone

The first passenger train to travel through the world’s longest rail tunnel on the first day of normal operations, has arrived right on time in Lugano, Switzerland. The Gotthard tunnel is 57km (35 miles) long.

This content was published on December 11, 2016 and agencies

At 08.17am Sunday morning the train from Basel pulled into the newly renovated railway station at Lugano, in the Italian-speaking canton Ticino. Numerous people had been invited to celebrate and meet the first train at the station. Shortly after, the first freight train arrived from Basel, it had been loaded with ‘Läckerli’ a local specialty biscuit from the city. They were shared out among the people waiting.

At about 09:00am, a freight train set off back in the opposite direction, this time loaded with the sweet bread, ‘panettone’ from Ticino.  

The freight train conductor, Michele Cravotta, said it was an “amazing and one-off experience” for him. 

The Gotthard base tunnel was 17 years in the making and speeds up the connection between north and south on a major rail axis in Europe, slicing right through the rock in the Gotthard mountain range. Its construction and successful completion has been heralded as a symbolic project of Swiss precision and engineering.  

The first journey: a passenger's-eye view

Train travellers had to be up bright and early to be part of the historic journey. A sea of journalists were on hand to capture the moment too. 

"First passenger train through #Gottardo2016 [the Gotthard]. #SBB A reason to celebrate," tweeted Marc Meschenmoser, a journalist at Swiss Public Television, SRF.

Here's a view from the driving seat of the passenger train from Swiss Federal Railways press officer, Christian Ginsig.

"My Sunday picture for @reetovongunten, now live at a speed of 200km/hour through the Gotthard."

Those on the first train on the first day of the route running to the normal timetable can feel a part of history. The American ambassador to Switzerland, Suzi LeVine, was one of them.

If you weren't one of the lucky few to be on board, you can experience the journey through the Gotthard base tunnel in 360 degrees, below.

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