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The Guoliang Tunnel in China
The Guoliang Tunnel in China

Driving under the fjords

Nine of the world’s most spectacular tunnels

Driving under the fjords

One was dug by hand in China, another reshaped the geography of Europe and a third doubles as a drainpipe. Welcome to the fascinating world of tunnels.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland
The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland

1. Gotthard Base Tunnel, Switzerland
The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the world’s longest and deepest tunnel. It runs under the Swiss alps between the towns of Erstfeld in the north and Bodio in the south. The tunnel is 57 km long and reaches a depth of 2,300 meters. Trains reaching speeds of up to 250 kilometers an hour can travel through in 20 minutes, according to the Swiss Travel System. The tunnel has helped to decrease the travel time between Zurich, Switzerland, and Milan, Italy, by an hour.

Length: 57 kilometers

2. Seikan Tunnel, Japan
The Seikan is a railway tunnel in Japan. What makes it unique is the fact that a 23-kilometer stretch of the tunnel is 140 meters below sea level. Until the Gotthard Base Tunnel was built, it was the longest and deepest rail tunnel in the world. The Seikan tunnel spans the Tsugaru Strait, connecting Aomori Prefecture on the island of Honshu to the island of Hokkaido. Work on the tunnel started in 1964 and was completed in 1988.

Length: 53 kilometers

3. Channel Tunnel, United Kingdom and France
The Channel Tunnel is not only one, but three tunnels. Two of them are meant for railways and the third is for service and security purposes. The tunnel runs between Folkestone in England and Pas-de-Calais in northern France and is used for both freight and passenger traffic. The 50-kilometer-long tunnel is largely considered to have defined the term megaproject. It changed the geography of Europe and helped reinforce high speed rail as an alternative to short-haul flights.

Length: 50 kilometers

The Laerdal Tunnel in Norway
The Laerdal Tunnel in Norway

4. Laerdal Tunnel, Norway
The tunnel is located in North Norway and is 24.5 kilometers long, making it the world’s longest road tunnel. To drive through takes 20 minutes. The sheer length of the tunnel led to studies in driver psychology which was used to evolve the design of the tunnel. The studies resulted in a design where lit caverns every 6 kilometers creates variation and alleviates claustrophobia and tiredness.

Length: 24.5 kilometers

5. Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, Japan
It is easy to mistake this tunnel for a bridge because part of the structure comprises a 4.4-kilometer span as well as a 9.6 kilometer subsea conduit. The Aqua Line crosses Tokyo Bay and connects the cities of Kawasaki and Kisarazu. It reduced the journey time between the two from 90 to 15 minutes. The tunnel is considered the precedent for constructing two-lane road tunnels.

Length: 14 kilometers

The Eisenhower Road Tunnel in Colorado
The Eisenhower Tunnel in USA

6. Eisenhower Tunnel, USA
The Eisenhower Road Tunnel in Colorado is one of the world’s highest tunnels, located 3,401 meters above sea level. The tunnel is the longest mountain tunnel and constitutes the highest point on the Interstate Highway System. The tunnel carries Interstate 70 (I-70) under the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and opened in 1973. The westbound bore is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S. President.

Length: 2.72 kilometers

7. Spiralen Tunnel, Norway
The dramatic Spiralen road tunnel, built in 1961 and comprising six spirals covering 1,649 meters leads to one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the industrial town of Drammen.

The tunnel opens out to a dramatic view of Drammen Valley.

Length: 1.65 kilometers

The Guoliang Tunnel in China
The Guoliang Tunnel in China

8. Guoliang Tunnel, China
Before the construction of this impressive tunnel, the only way to access the village of Guoliang was via a narrow path carved into the side of the Taihang Mountains. In 1972, a group of 13 villagers decided to construct a tunnel, which they dug by hand. Three villagers died during the construction, but the tunnel transformed the village and became a tourist attraction in its own right.

Length: 1.2 kilometers

9. SMART, Malaysia
The tunnel, the longest in Malaysia, was built to solve the problem of flash flooding in Kuala Lumpur. SMART is an acronym for Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel. SMART can operate in three ways:

1. When there is no flooding, it serves purely as a road tunnel.
2. When there are floods, rainwater can be diverted into a lower channel, and the upper level will remain open to traffic.
3. When exceptionally heavy floods occur, the tunnel closes to all traffic and watertight gates open to allow floodwater to flow through.

Length: 9.7 kilometers

Source: CNN Travel, Wikipedia

Driving under the fjords

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