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Switzerland has completed a mammoth engineering project with the 60-year construction of the world's longest tunnel, bringing to an end a US$10 billion infrastructure investment.

The 57 kilometre, or 34 mile, tunnel was officially completed Friday amid much jubilation and joy for the massive team of engineers that worked on the project, but also the Swiss public, each of whom has paid US$1,300 for its development.

Although the concept of the tunnel, which links Switzerland's Zurich to Italy's Milan under the Alps, was first conceived in 1947, approval of the project from Swiss voters was only secured in the 1970s in a series of referendums, while actual construction has taken place for the last 14 years.

Gotthard Base Tunnel is 4 km longer than the Seikan tunnel in Japan, which is also used for rail traffic. Like the Seikan tunnel, Gotthard Base Tunnel will link a major city with a major trade hub and will negate the need for heavy goods lorries to wind their way through the torturous Alps, thereby reducing transport time and costs.

In addition, the reduction in heavy vehicle traffic through the pristine Alpine passes will ultimately help maintain the natural integrity of the scenery.

Switzerland is a country renowned for its infrastructure achievements and expertise, which are exported around the world. The country has consistently been rated one of the best in the world and its cities regularly come out tops for having the highest scores on the Human Development Index.

The tunnel will be operational in 2017 and has been hailed by the usually reserved Swiss news media as a national triumph. Representatives of the 2,500 workers involved in the project walked the length of the tunnel Friday bearing the flags of the country's 26 cantons.


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