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Transportation

Switzerland's Mega Tunnel Sets Record 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-a-bore dept.
Anonymous Dupaeur writes "Switzerland, co-home of CERN and numerous other world organizations, has come closer to the completion of their recent megaproject: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will be the largest railway tunnel made by man. The project is due to be completed in 2017, and will host 200 to 250 trains a day with a significantly larger kinetic energy than the LHC's beams." After the completion of today's work, the tunnel is now 57 kilometers long, surpassing Japan's 53.9-kilometer Seikan Tunnel. There are a few longer tunnels in existence, such as the 137-kilometer Delaware Aqueduct, but they all move water rather than people.
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Switzerland's Mega Tunnel Sets Record

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  • I'd love to see a story just about the drill itself and how in the heck they manufacture and transport it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:08PM (#33911414)

    the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will be the largest railway tunnel made by man.

    Is there a larger, naturally occurring train tunnel somewhere?

  • Gotthard (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:09PM (#33911424) Homepage

    Gotthard? Hadron?

    Who the hell is coming up with these names? Are they trying to sell Viagra?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Gotthard? Hadron?

      Who the hell is coming up with these names? Are they trying to sell Viagra?

      Gotthard is the name of the actual pass going over the alps... (above the tunnel).

      its a pretty neat drive. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotthard_Pass )

    • Re:Gotthard (Score:5, Funny)

      by slick7 (1703596) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:35PM (#33911754)

      Gotthard? Hadron?

      Who the hell is coming up with these names? Are they trying to sell Viagra?

      Zo, you zeem to have zis re-occurring dream about very long tunnelz? HMMM. And what do you zink iss moving in zis tunnelz?

    • I think it's pretty appropriate for a large tunnel expecting to get that many trains in it on a regular basis. I can see this as the basis of a KY - "Tube" advert.

      "Gotthard? Get KY-Tube!"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Too bad they abandoned the planned station, if there ever was a "Khazad-dûm Central", that would probably be it.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:17PM (#33911546)

    Mentioning CERN because it's hosted in the same country as the tunnel? Comparing an entire train's kinetic energy to that of a fundmantal particle's kinetic energy? WTF?

    Why don't they compare the number of trains going through it per day to the number of possible subatomic particles while they're at it?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They'll do that with the dup that's coming next week.

    • I don't know why they mentioned CERN instead of Michelle Hunziker, I didn't think Slashdot was THAT bad...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anne_Nonymous (313852)

      >> Comparing an entire train's kinetic energy to that of a fundmantal particle's kinetic energy?

      This story brought to you by the mass media.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Why don't they compare the number of trains going through it per day to the number of possible subatomic particles while they're at it?

      42. Man, that is scary.

    • by haruchai (17472)

      It's the new Internet measuring standard. Information transmission is measured in Libraries of Congress per unit of time ; area in football ( or is that soccer?) fields and kinetic energy in LHCs.

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      Obviously they compare the kinetic energies because they're both particle colliders, the only difference being the size of the particle...

  • with a significantly larger kinetic energy than the LHC's beams.

    It's hardly surprising or noteworthy that a hundred-ton train moving at 200 mph has more kinetic energy than a particle accelerator, because the accelerator manipulates extremely small masses and doesn't rely on kinetic energy to propel them. As far as I know the only kinetic energy involved is that of the tiny masses moving under magnetic propulsion and then crashing into things (or each other) at really high speed. So why is the above statement relevant or interesting in the least?

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      It's hardly surprising or noteworthy that a hundred-ton train moving at 200 mph has more kinetic energy than a particle accelerator, because the accelerator manipulates extremely small masses and doesn't rely on kinetic energy to propel them. As far as I know the only kinetic energy involved is that of the tiny masses moving under magnetic propulsion and then crashing into things (or each other) at really high speed. So why is the above statement relevant or interesting in the least?

      Um, yeah, that 15 TeV yo

    • "As far as I know the only kinetic energy involved is that of the tiny masses moving under magnetic propulsion"

      Given that kinetic energy grows linearly with mass but quadratically with speed even under Netwon Laws and given that those little particles run at speeds near light I wouldn't be surprised if their kinetic energy were a bit over what you think it should. In fact, for a mass particle, no matter how little it is, it's kinetic energy grows up to infinite as it approaches light speed so, theoreticall

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by atisss (1661313)

      2,808 bunches per beam, 1.15×10^11 protons per bunch

      and

      protons at an energy of 7 teraelectronvolts (1.12 microjoules) per particle

      115000000000*2808 = 322920000000000 * 1/1000000 J = 322920000 Joules = 322 Megajoules, and 1 Megajoule is approximately the kinetic energy of a one-ton vehicle moving at 160 km/h. So it just takes 200 cars on highway to achieve kinetic energy of LHC

    • Re:Kinetic Energy? (Score:4, Informative)

      by smolloy (1250188) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:07PM (#33912148)

      Each particle has 5 TeV of kinetic energy.
      There will be (roughly) 1e12 particles per bunch, and (roughly) 1e3 bunches per pulse.

      This works out as ~800 MJ per pulse.

      That is the same energy as a 1e6 kg train moving at ~80 mph, so the comparison is not as daft as it would seem.

      (Note: Those numbers are all pretty rough, and I'm sure someone will be along soon to correct me soon, but the point is that the LHC beams store waaay more KE than you would imagine.)

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:26PM (#33911620) Homepage Journal

    Somebody here's already looked into this:

    If instead of a highway from point A to point B, for travelers going all the way from A to B, what has more capacity: 4 +- lanes of asphalt driven by drivers, or a loading system at A and an unloading system at B? One would imagine multiple on and off ramps, and computer-controlled mux/demux of the carrying platforms.

    I know, most people would rather pay $20 in gas + $20 in wear than a $20 toll, but, just supposin'.

    Probably multiple stretches of tunnels would really be necessary with a 'pee break' station every 20 minutes or so. Sort of like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, but you get to play cards with your kids instead of driving.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      its mostly meant to be used by cargo transit.... where trains make much more sense.

      • by Sique (173459)

        It makes sense for personal transport too. The trains from Zurich to Milan will make it in 2:40 hrs through the tunnel. Car drive is 3:20 hrs.

        • I'll be honest, the 40 minute savings doesn't really seem to be worth 10 billion dollars, until you realize that the USA could have built 70 of these things instead of the Iraq war...

          • by Sique (173459) on Friday October 15, 2010 @04:13PM (#33913010) Homepage

            It's 40 minutes for 200 trains per day with 400-1000 passengers each. So it's at least 80,000 times 40 minutes per day saved, and if the tunnel gets used for 50 years, it saves 57.600.000.000 minutes or about 1 billion hours. Makes $10 per hour saved. Sounds sensible to me.

            • by romiz (757548)
              You also save a lot on energy costs. The tunnel is located at a much lower altitude compared to the previous one, which means that heavy freight trains will need less power to travel this route.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I'll be honest, the 40 minute savings doesn't really seem to be worth 10 billion dollars, until you realize that the USA could have built 70 of these things instead of the Iraq war...

            The major goal of the Gotthard tunnel is not to improve travel time for passengers, it is to provide a high capacity line through the Alps for freight trains.
            The new tunnel is approximately 600 meters lower than the old tunnel, which makes a huge difference in electricity consumption for freight trains.
            Besides, the new tunnel has no spiral (helicoidal) tunnels anymore. I will miss them :-)

  • Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:32PM (#33911710)

    I don't mean to turn this into a slam against America, but I guess what I'm saying is, and so be it. It's a shame that countries around the world are spending billions on engineering such projects while America is spending trillions on war.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      So which great infrastructure project do you propose that the US should spend money on?

      • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:08PM (#33912158)

        As opposed to war? All of them.

      • Re:Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Surt (22457) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:08PM (#33912172) Homepage Journal

        Well, you could tunnel under the SF bay or the peninsula mountain range and relieve the ridiculous housing pressures in SV.
        You could lay FTTH pretty much across the country.
        There are a lot of great ideas out there that would help our country compete better, but instead we invest in farm subsidies because our politics are paralyzed.

        • There are a lot of great ideas out there that would help our country compete better, but instead we invest in farm subsidies because our politics are paralyzed.

          "Invest"? The only investment happening there is giant agricultural corporations investing in Congressmen.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by instagib (879544)

        Updating the nationwide electrical grid, including the ability to connect decentralized producers (solar in the south, wind in the north)?

      • by speroni (1258316)

        Transcontinental high speed railways.

    • I don't mean to turn this into a slam against America, but I guess what I'm saying is, and so be it. It's a shame that countries around the world are spending billions on engineering such projects while America is spending trillions on war.

      Opinions on whether or not we should be over there aside, I don't see why we can't do both. It's not like all the money is going toward war. It's also a pretty good bet that the war isn't going to last forever. What needs to happen is someone in Washington needs to grow a spine and raise taxes to pay for what we need to pay for, and start trimming the fat going forward. The military is a great place to start, and yes the first thing that should go is the war. Then we can pull all of our troops out of Europe

      • Re:Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

        by eln (21727) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:50PM (#33912698) Homepage

        What needs to happen is someone in Washington needs to grow a spine and raise taxes to pay for what we need to pay for, and start trimming the fat going forward. The military is a great place to start

        Good luck with that. The military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about is far bigger and more powerful than even he could have predicted, and it's basically unstoppable at this point. Defense contractors lobby Congress to fund giant defense projects of questionable value, Congress people get those giant defense projects built in their districts, and the jobs that get created turn into votes to get them re-elected and more money for the contractors to expand their lobbying efforts. It's a cycle that's good for everyone involved except the taxpayer (other than the ones in the Congress person's district, of course).

        Hell, the Secretary of Defense himself got raked over the coals for even daring to suggest the military didn't actually need all of the money they get every year, and wouldn't it be great if they could stop buying all this crap they have no use for. If the guy in charge of the military can't cut the military budget, then who the hell can? Congress sure isn't going to do it, nobody ever gets elected by being "soft on defense", especially in our post-9/11 fear-based system.

        • The irony is that, at the same time as huge amounts of money are wasted in the American military industry complex, the basic needs (like producing a decent [madogre.com] infantry rifle [nytimes.com] and round [wikipedia.org], for Christ's sake) are being neglected under the excuse of "it would be too expensive to change", or, alternatively, simply "lalala I can't hear you, everything is fine".

    • Did you forget the Big Dig already?
      Bay Bridge retrofit.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Avenue_Subway [wikipedia.org]

      and then of course there is the Bridge to Nowhere.

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:35PM (#33911752) Homepage
    A third of the nation's highways are in poor or mediocre shape. Massively leaking water and sewage systems are creating health hazards and contaminating rivers and streams. More than 6,000 of our nation's 115,000 bridges that are part of the national highway system are structurally deficient, and we can't even get a new tunnel built to link traffic from New York and New Jersey to Manhattan.
    • by TimHunter (174406) on Friday October 15, 2010 @03:02PM (#33912076)

      Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones.

      New Jersey can't afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state's employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/opinion/12brooks.html?_r=1&th&emc=th [nytimes.com]

      • by khallow (566160)
        It is interesting how plush government work is for those who get it. There are a number of government jobs where you get wages and benefits above what is earned in private industry and you get long term job security on the order of decades. I think that's a seed for a huge disconnect in outlook between government employees and everyone else.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bjohnson (3225)

          No, it's not very interesting because it simply isn't true. On the average government employees are better paid than the average american, but that's only because government jobs tend not to be minimum-wage McJobs.

          When controlled by educational achievement, the exact opposite is true.

          http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/09/public_employees_dont_make_mor.html [washingtonpost.com]

          The average government employee with a bachelors degree makes 25% LESS than the average private industry employee with a bachelors degree.

          • by BeanThere (28381)

            Which doesn't actually detract from the point of the article; even if they were being paid less, they're still mostly basically being paid to do little more useful than dig holes and fill them in again all day. Modernity should have made governments far more lean and effective than those of 50 years ago; instead, they've just multiplied the amount of pointless red tape by a factor of 100 to do 'faux busywork'.

            • by drsquare (530038)

              Many private sector jobs effectively pay people to dig a hole, buy some pointless electronic device, bury it in the hole and fill it in again. When technology has eliminated most necessary jobs, we can either pay people to do nothing of value, or have mass unemployment.

              • by khallow (566160)

                Many private sector jobs effectively pay people to dig a hole, buy some pointless electronic device, bury it in the hole and fill it in again. When technology has eliminated most necessary jobs, we can either pay people to do nothing of value, or have mass unemployment.

                Uh huh. I hate to distract you from your little fantasy here, but the private sector doesn't do that.

                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by Jedi Alec (258881)

                  Dream on buddy.

                  *every* large organization has red tape. It increases exponentially as the organization grows linearly.

                  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to burn about 10k worth of man-hours to get approval for a 2k expense.

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    *every* large organization has red tape. It increases exponentially as the organization grows linearly.

                    Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to burn about 10k worth of man-hours to get approval for a 2k expense.

                    "Red tape" is not a bit you set. There are degrees of red tape. For example, you boast of destroying 10k value of your business (presumably a private one) in order to cover a 2k expense. (Personally, I think that indicates some degree of ineptness on your part. You probably ought to consult someone, like a secretary or the new-fangled executive assistant, who processes expenses routinely to see how to do it right.) In comparison, prisoners in US or state-run penitentiaries often burn that much or more just

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      Wow, way to throw out the ad hominems there buddy.

                      Didn't happen. I read my post again to make sure. I did indicate that I suspected you were inept. Your above reply confirms my original impression. Merely, making relevant observations of your character based on evidence is not ad hominem either.

                      Work in large ICT projects for a while and then get back to us. You'll be dealing with approval procedures, internal accounting procedures, *checks* on those accounting procedures and so on, and so on.

                      Hewlett Packard. Been there done that. I'm sensing some more fail in your argument.

                      Sure, at times you can bypass the whole thing and cowboy your way through, but in the long run you'll just make a mess and get hung out to dry for it.

                      Odd. I didn't suggest you "cowboy", I suggested you consult someone who knows the ropes. Do what works.

                      Typically that 10k consists of semi-useless people that keep themselves busy by attending meetings and giving their opinions. Sure, you could ignore those people but they will turn around and fuck you over when they find out, and since they spend all their time kissing ass in one direction and elbowing faces in the other, you really don't want to get on their bad side. There's no "boasting" involved, it's simply the cost of doing business.

                      I bet a number of these "semi-useless" people know a lot more about getting mone

                  • by khallow (566160)
                    Keep in mind also the following claim:

                    When technology has eliminated most necessary jobs, we can either pay people to do nothing of value, or have mass unemployment. Again, private industry does not pay people to do nothing of value. Due to things such as a red tape, they may end up getting nothing of value, but that's not the intent (aside from a few squirrelly cases of tax avoidance like the old Uwe Boll movies).

          • by khallow (566160)

            The average government employee with a bachelors degree makes 25% LESS than the average private industry employee with a bachelors degree.

            Several problems with using the study as you do. First, you ignore hours worked. Even in the context of the study, when you account for hours worked, public employees considered by the study improve to 2-7% less than the respective private employees. I consider it fairly sleazy to ignore that. Maybe you couldn't understand the consequences of the study, but Ezra Klein doesn't have that excuse. Second, we're only considering state and local employees in the study. How can you legitimately ignore the elephant

        • by drsmithy (35869)

          There are a number of government jobs where you get wages and benefits above what is earned in private industry and you get long term job security on the order of decades.

          While the job security does tend to be good, as do the post-retirement benefits, you don't work for the government because of the salary, which is usually well below that in private industry.

      • For some reason, I don't think they got to be Fortune 500 companies by being generous with their benefit packages. Number 1 on that list is Walmart, and they don't offer any benefits to the vast majority of their employees.

      • Both sides are right. But what nobody seems to be asking is: Why are important projects now unaffordable? Decades ago, when the federal and state governments were much smaller, they had the means to undertake gigantic new projects, like the Interstate Highway System and the space program. But now, when governments are bigger, they don't.

        Answer: they weren't that much less expensive. Adjusted for inflation, the Lincoln Tunnel cost roughly 1/3 of the proposed budget for the Jersey Tunnel, and that tunnel is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nutshell42 (557890)
      It's even worse than you think. $1 spent on road maintenance when the surface first starts to deteriorate will save $14 that you would have to spend to rebuild the roadbed if you let potholes reach the foundation. It's one of the most cost effective uses of money the government can do.

      But it doesn't get done. Why? Simple: Voters are stupid. Let me elaborate:

      • New projects allow lots of photo ops. Signing the contracts, groundbreaking, ribbon cutting, etc. "I was assiduous about routine maintenance" doesn't
  • Are we talking passenger trains, freight trains, or both? Will this (presumably) be an electrified train system, so no fumes in the tunnels, or something else? Any word on where the power is expected to come from if electrified (nuclear, coal, gas, hydro? I'm guessing you wouldn't run a train system on wind or solar, but perhaps I'm wrong)?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JSBiff (87824)

      Well, this isn't a complete answer, but I just noticed this in the article. . .

      "It is also a cornerstone of the policy to move freight in particular from road to rail."

      So I guess there will be at least some freight running through it, but there could also be passenger trains running at other times, I suppose.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Isn't electricity once produced and connected to the grid a fungible product?

      ie: it doesn't matter where the electricity comes from.

      • by JSBiff (87824)

        Yes, this is true, but I wasn't sure if the rails would be powered from the main 'open grid', or if there might be some generation specifically planned for being the primary power source?

        Someone in one of the other replies mentioned there are nearby hydro dams already powering some trains in the region, so it might be a lot of the power ends up coming from those. Hard to say without a more definitive answer from someone who knows more about the project and the specific plans being made.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      Steel on Steel wheels, larger more efficient engine, and a much more areodynamic shape (compared to trucks with shipping containers hauling the same amount of cargo) all comes together to mean that they could generate the power at a coal plant and still be an order of magnitude more efficient than a fleet of semis.

    • by Sique (173459)

      Basicly Switzerland has basicly only electric trains, and the electricity is produced by hydro power.

    • Are we talking passenger trains, freight trains, or both? Will this (presumably) be an electrified train system, so no fumes in the tunnels, or something else? Any word on where the power is expected to come from if electrified (nuclear, coal, gas, hydro? I'm guessing you wouldn't run a train system on wind or solar, but perhaps I'm wrong)?

      I happen to be swiss and I have worked in civil engineering for some years. This tunnel will be used for both, passengers and freight. The new tunnel will complement some already existing shoter train tunnels.

      Germany is one of the biggest exporting countries in europe. A lot of goods have to be moved from germany to the mediterranean sea (from north to south through the alps) and the other way around. Many goods are moved through the highway tunnels and the existing train tunnels.

      Here in switzerland we have

    • by timbo234 (833667)

      Are we talking passenger trains, freight trains, or both?

      Freight and passenger trains. One of the politicians behind it stated a major goal of it was to virtually eliminate the need for truck traffic over the Alps to and from Italy for trade. Both because of the environmental costs in the delicate Alpine environment and the simple fact that they don't want to have to keep building new freeways in such a small country.

      Will this (presumably) be an electrified train system, so no fumes in the tunnels, or some

      • by JSBiff (87824)

        Thanks for the link to the Swiss FOoE - always nice to have a direct source for that type of info. I think it's pretty awesome that the Swiss get about 95% of their energy from clean sources (of course, not every country has as much hydro available to us to tap). Still the fact that you'll be able to almost eliminate freight trucks through the Alps (other than trucks servicing Switzerland itself, I guess?), and move the freight with clean power will be truly cool.

        Unfortunately, as for that article you recom

  • with a significantly larger kinetic energy than the LHC's beams

    So... are we going to be colliding trains here then? I don't think I'll be getting a ticket for that route...

  • The tunnel is 57,000 blocks long, and 13 million blocks were mines in the process, i.e the tube is about 15 blocks width by 15 blocks high.

    It will use up 200,000 stone picks, or 12,683 diamond picks (= 38,049 pieces of diamonds). Using stone picks means needing 400,000 sticks, which means 50,000 blocks of wood, possible means cutting down 10,000 trees at 5 blocks per tree.

    The rails will need 21,375 pieces of iron (=334 blocks of 64 pieces = 6.18 large chests full of them). Using boosters, going at about 8m

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