World

Delving Deep: Unveiling the 10 Longest Tunnels in the World

Humankind’s fascination with burrowing through mountains and under oceans is as old as civilization itself. And in the modern era, our tunneling prowess has reached astonishing heights, literally. Today, we embark on a subterranean journey to uncover the 10 longest tunnels in the world, marveling at their sheer length, purpose, and the engineering feats that brought them to life.

1. Gotthard Base Tunnel, Switzerland (57.1 km)

Getzner

Stretching through the heart of the Swiss Alps, the Gotthard Base Tunnel reigns supreme as the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel. This engineering marvel clocks in at a staggering 57.1 kilometers (35.5 miles), plunging as deep as 2,300 meters (7,546 feet) below the surface. Its two parallel tunnels carry high-speed trains, reducing travel time between Zurich and Milan by an hour and facilitating seamless freight transport across Europe.

  • Track Length – 57.09 km (35.5 mi)
  • Traffic – Railway
  • Track – 2
  • Start – Erstfeld, canton of Uri
  • End – Bodio, canton of Ticino
  • Work begun – 4 November 1999
  • Opened – 1 June 2016

2. Seikan Tunnel, Japan (53.8 km)

Atlas Obscura

Connecting Hokkaido and Honshu, the Seikan Tunnel in Japan is the world’s longest undersea railway tunnel, plunging beneath the Tsugaru Strait. Spanning 53.8 kilometers (33.5 miles), it’s a testament to Japanese engineering prowess, navigating complex underwater conditions and seismic challenges. The Seikan Tunnel revolutionized transportation within Japan, boosting tourism and economic activity between the two islands.

  • Track Length – 53.85 km (35.5 mi)
  • Traffic – Railway
  • Track – 2
  • Start – Honshu
  • End – Hokkaido
  • Opened – March 13, 1988

3. Channel Tunnel, France/United Kingdom (50.45 km)

Britannica

Linking Britain and France across the English Channel, the Channel Tunnel is a marvel of international cooperation and engineering audacity. This 50.45-kilometer (31.3-mile) undersea behemoth comprises three tunnels: two railway tunnels for Eurostar trains and a service tunnel for maintenance and ventilation. It transformed travel between the two countries, cutting journey times and boosting both tourism and business opportunities.

  • Length – 50.46 km (31.35 mi)
  • Traffic – Railway
  • Track – 2 single track tunnels 1 service tunnel
  • Start – Folkestone, Kent, England
  • End – Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France
  • Opened – 6 May 1994

4. Yulhyeon Tunnel, South Korea (50.3 km)

The Yulhyeon Tunnel in South Korea is the world’s longest high-speed railway tunnel, stretching an impressive 50.3 kilometers (31.3 miles) through the Gyeonggi Province. It’s a key component of the KTX high-speed rail network, significantly reducing travel times and connecting major cities like Seoul and Busan. The tunnel boasts advanced safety features and disaster prevention measures, ensuring a smooth and secure journey for passengers.

  • Length – 50.3 km (31.3 mi)
  • Track – double-track tube
  • Start – Suseo
  • End – Pyeongtaek
  • Opened – December 2016

5. Songshan Lake Tunnel, China (38.81 km)

Snaking through the mountainous terrain of Guangdong Province, the Songshan Lake Tunnel in China is a crucial artery for the Dongguan–Huizhou Intercity Railway. At 38.81 kilometers (24.1 miles), it’s the world’s longest high-speed rail tunnel built on bridges, traversing lakes and valleys with breathtaking views. The tunnel showcases China’s commitment to high-speed rail infrastructure and regional connectivity.

  • Length – 35,391 m (21.991 mi)
  • Start – Folkestone, Kent, England
  • End – Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France
  • Opened – 2016

6. Shenzhen Hong Kong Tunnel, China/Hong Kong (35.65 km)

COWI

Connecting Mainland China with Hong Kong, the Shenzhen Hong Kong Tunnel is a symbol of cross-border collaboration and economic integration. Spanning 35.65 kilometers (22.15 miles), it boasts two dedicated tunnels for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, facilitating faster and more efficient passenger and freight movement between the two regions.

  • Length – 50.46 km (31.35 mi)
  • Traffic – Railway
  • Track – 2 single track tunnels 1 service tunnel
  • Start – Guangzhou
  • End – Shenzhen
  • Opened – 26 December 2011

7. Lötschberg Base Tunnel, Switzerland (34.57 km)

Switzerland makes a second appearance on our list with the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, another engineering marvel traversing the Bernese Alps. This 34.57-kilometer (21.48-mile) tunnel features two single-track sections connected by a central passing loop, ensuring efficient train scheduling and increased capacity. It significantly shortens travel times between Bern and Milan, promoting tourism and economic interconnectedness.

8. New Guanjiao Tunnel, China (32.64 km)

Delving deep into the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the New Guanjiao Tunnel in China stands as a testament to the country’s infrastructure prowess in challenging terrain. At 32.64 kilometers (20.28 miles), it’s the world’s longest double-track railway tunnel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a vital transportation

  • Length – 34.5766 km (21.4849 mi)
  • Traffic – Railway
  • Start – Frutigen, canton of Bern
  • End – Raron, canton of Valais
  • Work begun – 5 July 1999
  • Opened – 14 June 2007

9. Gotthard Road Tunnel, Switzerland (16.9 km)

Wikipedia

Back in the land of Alpine marvels, the Gotthard Road Tunnel in Switzerland showcases the country’s expertise in both rail and road infrastructure. This 16.9-kilometer (10.5-mile) tunnel pierces through the heart of the Gotthard Massif, offering a vital year-round route for motorists and freight vehicles. It significantly reduces travel times and improves safety compared to the treacherous mountain pass it bypassed.

  • Length – 16.942 kilometres (10.527 mi)
  • Lines – 2
  • Start – Göschenen, Uri (north)
  • End – Airolo, Ticino (south)
  • Work begun – 5 May 1970
  • Opened – 5 September 1980

10. Apennines Base Tunnel, Italy (16.5 km)

Italy rounds out our list with the Apennines Base Tunnel, a crucial component of the high-speed railway line between Florence and Naples. This 16.5-kilometer (10.2-mile) tunnel burrows under the Apennine Mountains, slashing travel times and boosting tourism and economic activity in the region. Notably, it features the longest concrete railway bridge in the world, showcasing innovation in tunnel construction.

  • Length – 18.507 km (11.500 mi)
  • Lines – 2
  • Start – San Benedetto-Castiglione
  • End – Vernio-Montepiano-Cantagallo
  • Opened – 21 April 1934

Beyond Length: A Celebration of Engineering and Human Ingenuity

These tunnel giants are more than just feats of engineering prowess; they represent human ambition, innovation, and a commitment to overcoming geographical challenges. They:

  • Connect communities and nations: Tunnels bridge geographical barriers, facilitating trade, travel, and cultural exchange.
  • Reduce travel times and distances: By carving through mountains and beneath oceans, tunnels shorten journeys and improve transportation efficiency.
  • Boost economies: Improved connectivity fuels economic growth by enabling faster movement of goods and people.
  • Advanced technology and construction methods: Pushing the boundaries of tunnel construction leads to new technologies and techniques that benefit future projects.

A Tunnel Vision for the Future

The future of tunneling is bright, with ambitious projects planned worldwide. From the Seikan Tunnel Extension in Japan to the Brenner Base Tunnel in Austria, the quest to conquer distance and terrain continues. These marvels of engineering promise to further revolutionize transportation and connect communities like never before.

So, the next time you find yourself hurtling through a tunnel, take a moment to appreciate the incredible feat of engineering beneath your feet. These tunnels are testaments to human ingenuity, connecting us across vast distances and shaping a future where no destination is truly out of reach.

Also Read: Top 10 Biggest Airports in The World

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