World agog at bizarre Gotthard Base Tunnel opening

The first trains have travelled through the 57km Gotthard Base Tunnel following a spectacular opening ceremony that has amazed the world - in more ways than one.

World agog at bizarre Gotthard Base Tunnel opening
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Some 600 actors, musicians, alphorn players, choirs and the Swiss Army band performed in a sometimes bizarre ceremony in Rynächt at the northern end of the tunnel that featured people dressed as angels, ibex and tapdancing construction workers.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The performance, aiming to represent Swiss alpine culture, left the world's media — 300 of whom were in attendance — open-mouthed

The inauguration kicked off with simultaneous speeches at each end of the tunnel by the Swiss president Johann Schneider-Ammann and transport minister Doris Leuthard.

“It’s a great day for Switzerland and for Europe,” said Schneider-Ammann before the spectacle began in front of over 1,000 guests including the leaders of France, Germany and Italy.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

While some were impressed by the 12 million-franc inauguration, others were left wanting.

The lavish opening ceremony befits the huge engineering feat represented by the tunnel, which supplants a Japanese counterpart to become the longest rail tunnel in the world.

With 2,300 metres of rock above it, the Gotthard tunnel will also be the world's deepest. It will boost the amount of freight able to be transported between northern and southern Europe, and cut the journey time between Zurich and Milan by an hour.

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