Engineers close to Swiss Alps tunnel breakthrough after 14 years

After 14 years of drilling beneath the Swiss Alps, engineers are finally poised to make a breakthrough as they aim to create the world's longest railway tunnel.

The 35.4-mile-long, 6 billion EUR Gotthard Tunnel will speed up railway connections between northern Europe and Italy, supplanting Japan's 33.5-mile-long Seikan Tunnel as the world's longest.

The project is a source of enormous pride for the Swiss and has been compared with some of the great tunnels the country dug in the 19th century, which claimed the lives of hundreds of workers. The first tunnel under the Gotthard Pass, completed in 1882, was nine miles long – at the time, a record.

For 14 years, huge boring machines have been tunnelling through the mountains from two directions: in the north from Erstfeld, near Lake Lucerne, and in the south from Bodio, near Switzerland's border with Italy.

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