The Longest Railway Tunnels In The World

Although railway tunnels are often very short, there are a few examples from around the world in which they stretch to great lengths.

A railway tunnel is a railway track that runs beneath the earth’s surface or under the sea. There are several railway tunnels in the world, and they vary in length from short tunnels to tunnels that stretch for dozens of miles.

Seikan Tunnel

The Seikan Tunnel is a dual gauge railway tunnel located in Japan which connects the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. Stretching over 33 miles, the Seikan Tunnel is the longest railway undersea tunnel and is the second longest railway tunnel after the Swiss Gotthard Base Tunnel. The railway tunnel is also the deepest in the world with a depth of 459 feet below the sea level. Before the Seikan Tunnel was constructed, people would cross the two islands by use of five ferries. However, after the Second World War, the Japanese economy saw double-digit growth and with it came an influx of traffic which overwhelmed the ferry service. This issue prompted the Japanese government to seek an alternative, and hence the idea of the undersea railway tunnel was conceived. The tunnel was constructed by the Japanese government in 1971 and was opened in 1988 at the cost of about $3.6 billion.

Gotthard Base Tunnel

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is located in Switzerland. With a total length of 35.5 miles, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world. The railway tunnel is also the deepest in the world with depths reaching 8,000 feet. Construction of the tunnel began in October 1996 and was completed in March 2010 at the cost of more than $15 billion. It started operations in December 2016. Switzerland is a mountainous country with the Alps being a large barrier in the transportation of passengers and freight. Before the tunnel’s construction, the majority of the transportation was carried out through trucking which was slow, prone to accidents and economically unviable. So in 1994, the Swiss government put in place a law requiring a majority of the freight tonnage be transferred from truck transport to railway transport which signaled the beginning of planning for the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Over 200 freight trains and 50 passenger trains use the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is a 31-mile railway tunnel located in the English Channel. The Channel Tunnel is the second-longest underwater railway tunnel in the world, after the Japanese Seikan Tunnel. The tunnel reaches depths of 790 feet below sea level. The Channel Tunnel connects Folkestone in the United Kingdom to Coquelles in France was constructed from 1988 to 1994 by both the UK and the French governments at the cost of over $21 billion which was a record at the time. The Channel Tunnel was chosen by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world in 1995. About 400 trains use the Channel Tunnel every day hauling over 50,000 passengers and 54,000 tons of freight.

Which Are The Longest Railway Tunnels In The World?

RankNameLocationLength in km Year completed
1Gotthard Base TunnelSwitzerland (Alps)57.104 km2016
2Seikan TunnelJapan (Tsugaru Strait)53.85 km1988
3Yulhyeon TunnelSouth Korea (Gyeonggi)52.3 km2016
4Channel TunnelFrance/United Kingdom (English Channel)50.45 km1994
5Songshan Lake TunnelChina (Dongguan)38.813 km2016
6Lötschberg Base TunnelSwitzerland (Bernese Alps)34.576 km2007
7New Guanjiao TunnelChina (Qinghai)32.645 km2014
8Guadarrama Tunnel[4]Spain (Sierra de Guadarrama)28.418 km2007
9West Qinling TunnelChina(Gansu)28.236 km2016
10Taihang TunnelChina (Shanxi)27.848 km2007

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