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Switzerland Opens World's Longest, Deepest Rail Tunnel

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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (clockwise from left), Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann, (second left), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (back right), and French President Francois Hollande sit in the VIP-train on the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The construction of the 57 kilometer long tunnel began in 1999, the breakthrough was in 2010. Commercial operation will begin December 2016. (Ruben Sprich/Pool Photo via AP)
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (clockwise from left), Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann, (second left), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (back right), and French President Francois Hollande sit in the VIP-train on the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The construction of the 57 kilometer long tunnel began in 1999, the breakthrough was in 2010. Commercial operation will begin December 2016. (Ruben Sprich/Pool Photo via AP)

Switzerland has opened the world’s longest and deepest railway tunnel, 17 years after starting work on the project.

The Gotthard Railway Tunnel is 57 kilometers long. Trains passing through it will be about 2.3 kilometers underground at the deepest point.

The tunnel cost $12 billion to build under the Alps of central Switzerland.

The tunnel will reduce the time it takes trains to travel between northern and southern Europe. It is also expected to lower the number of vehicles on roads, and move cargo between north and south.

Many large trucks now carry goods through Europe. The trucks pollute the air.

The two-way tunnel opens for commercial service in December. When that happens, up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will be able to pass through it every day.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were at the opening ceremony on Wednesday. There were also musical bands and dancers. To celebrate the event, a special song was even written for the tunnel.

The new tunnel will have an effect on Switzerland and the rest of Europe for years to come.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. But some EU member countries have helped pay for, design and build the tunnel. The tunnel is expected to help the EU railway network -- especially traffic between Germany and Italy.

The tunnel stretches from the German-speaking town of Erstfeld in the north to the Italian-speaking town of Bodio in the south.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

The Associated Press reported this story from Geneva. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

tunnel – n. a passage that goes under the ground, through a hill, etc.

cargo – n. something that is carried from one place to another by boat, airplane, etc.

commercial – adj. related to or used in the buying and selling of goods and services; concerned with earning money

freight – adj. goods that are carried by ships, trains, trucks or airplanes

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