Railway tunnels

Page last modified 28/7/2019


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Railway tunnels

1/6/2016, The St Gotthard base tunnel opened to rail traffic after 20 years under construction. At 57.5 km, or 35 miles, it was the world’s longest tunnel to date.

6/5/1994. The Channel Tunnel was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President Mitterand. 50 km long, it had taken  15,000 workers 7 years to complete and cost UK£ 10 billion. Construction of the Tunnel was started in November 1987, and workers met in the middle three years later. An earlier Channel Tunnel proposal in 1907 had been withdrawn after the British military feared it would be used for invasion.

10/12/1993. Builders of the Channel Tunnel officially handed over the keys to the operators, Eurotunnel.

1/12/1990. The Channel Tunnelers broke through to each other, 40 metres below the Channel seabed.

13/3/1988, The Seikan Tunnel, 53.85km long, Japan, opened on the Honshu-Hokkaido line.

26/12/1987, The Jundushan railway tunnel, China, on the Datong to Quinhuangdao line, opened.

1/12/1987, Digging began on the Channel Tunnel.

12/2/1986. The Channel Tunnel agreement was signed in Canterbury. Britain and France had agreed to build the Tunnel on 24/1/1986.

20/1/1986, Britain and France announced plans to build the Channel Tunnel, after an historic agreement in Lille. The expected cost was £5 billion. Trains were expected to run by April 1993. A Channel Bridge was rejected as too hazardous, but it was hoped to add a road tunnel early in the 21st century.

15/11/1982, The Haruna rail tunnel, 15.35 km long, Japan, also the Nakayama Tunnel, 14.65 km long, also the Uonuma Tunnel, 8.65 km long, als0 the Shin Shimizu Tunnel, 13.5 km long, opened.

28/6/1982, The Furka Base Tunnel, Switzerland, 15.381 km long, opened on the Furka-Oberalp line.

23/6/1982, The Ichinoseki Tunnel, Japan, 9.74 km long, was opened on the Ichinoseki-Katami line.

29/4/1980. The Orte Tunnel, Italy, 9.371 km long, opened on the Roma-Citta del Pieve line.

19/3/1980, The British Government said a private consortium could build the Channel Tunnel, but no public money would be provided.

12/9/1978, The Kamai Range tunnel, North Island, New Zealand, 8.85 km long, opened between Apata and Waharoa.

22/5/1977, The Santa Lucia tunnel, Italy, 10.262km long, opened on the Naples-Salerno line.

10/3/1975, The Shin Kannon rail tunnel, Japan, 18.713 km long, opened, also the Kitakyushu line, 11.747 km long, also the Bingo Tunnel, 8.9 km long. Also Fukuoka tunnel, 8.488 km long, also the Aki Tunnel, 13.03 km long. 60.8

20/1/1975. The Channel Tunnel project was abandoned by the British Government.

17/11/1973, UK Prime Minister Edward Heath and French President Pompidou signed an agreement to build a Channel Tunnel rail link. However there were delays and construction did not start until 1987.

3/6/1973, The Lierasen rail tunnel, Norway, 10.7km long, opened on the Oslo-Drammen line.

15/3/1972, The Rokko rail tunnel, Japan, 16.25 km long, opened on the Osaka to Shinkobe line.

7/11/1970, The Flathead Tunnel, USA, 12.470 km long, opened on the Libby-Whitefish line, Montana.

1/10/1964, The Otowayama Tunnel, Japan, 5.045 km long, opened on the Tokyo-Osaka line.

6/2/1964. Britain and France reaffirmed agreement to build a Channel Tunnel.

19/9/1963, France and Britain agreed to build a Channel Tunnel.

10/6/1962, The Hokuriku tunnel, 13.87 km long, Japan, opened on the Maibara-Fukui line.

5/12/1960, the S Elia-lanculla tunnel, Italy, 5.142 km long, opened on the Reggio-Calabria-Brindisi line.

1/10/1957, The Fukasaka rail tunnel, Japan, 5.173 km long, opened on the Omi-Shintsu-Shinhikada line.

6/5/1957. The British and French revived plans for a Channel Tunnel link, despite fears over security and rabies.

11/11/1955, The Mount Royal Ohara rail tunnel, Japan, 5.063 km long, opened on the Ohara-Katsuura line.

3/11/1955, The Rimutaka rail tunnel, New Zealand, 8.798 km long, opened.

3/6/1954, The new two-track Woodhead railway tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester, 5 km long, opened, replacing the earlier two single-track tunnels, see 2/2/1852.

17/12/1943, The Kvineshei rail tunnel, Norway, 9.064 km long, opened. The Haegebostad Tunnel, 8.474 km long, opened. The Gyland rail tunnel, Norway, 5.5 km long, opened.

10/11/1937, The Senzan rail tunnel, Japan, 5.4 km long, opened.

9/8/1937, The Lusse rail tunnel, France, 7 km long, opened.

1/12/1934, The Tanna rail tunnel, Japan, 7 km long, opened.

22/4/1934, The Apennine rail tunnel, Italy, 19 km long, opened, linking Florence and Bologna. The Monte Adone rail tunnel, Italy, 7 km long, opened.

14/11/1933, The Biassa rail tunnel, Italy, 5.1 km long, opened.

1/9/1931, The Shimizu rail tunnel, Japan, 9.701 km long, opened on the Doai-Tsuchitaru line.

5/6/1930, The UK Government rejected plans for a Channel Tunnel.

14/3/1930, The UK Government’s Channel Tunnel Committee approved the building of a Channel Tunnel.

21/7/1929, The Puymorens rail tunnel, France, 5.5 km long, opened.

12/1/1929, The Cascade Tunnel, USA, 12.542 km, long, was opened on the Spokane-Seattle line.

30/10/1928, The Col de Braus rail tunnel, France, 6 km long, opened.

18/7/1928, The Somport Tunnel, 7,874 metres long, opened between France and Spain.

27/2/1928, The Moffat rail tunnel, USA, 9.997 km long, opened on the Denver-Glenwood Springs line.

28/10/1927, The Monte Orso rail tunnel, Italy, 7.5 km long, opened. Also the Vivola tunnel, Italy, 7 km long, opened. Also the Monte Massico rail tunnel, Italy, 5.5 km long, opened.

18/7/1927, The Somport rail tunnel, 8.563 km long, between France and Spain, opened.

4/8/1923, The Otira Tunnel, New Zealand, 8.563 km long, opened on the Christchurch-Brunner line, South island.

16/10/1922, The world’s longest main-line railway tunnel, the Simplon II under the Alps, 21 km long, was completed after four years work.

21/10/1918. The Mount Royal Ohara rail tunnel, Canada, 5.073 km long, opened in Montreal.

10/3/1919, The UK Government was reported to favour the idea of a Channel Tunnel.

6/12/1916, The Connaught rail tunnel, Canada, 8.5 km long, opened.

14/2/1916, A 4.8 km rail tunnel under Buenos Aires, carrying freight only, opened from west of Once de Septembre Station to the Port Zone.

8/1/1916. The Lower Hauenstein rail tunnel, Switzerland, 8.134 km long, opened on the Tecknau-Olten line.

1/10/1915, The Grenchenberg rail tunnel, Switzerland, 8.578 km long, opened on the Moutier-Grenchen line.

16/5/1915, The Mont d’Or rail tunnel, between France and Switzerland, 6 km long, opened.

15/7/1913. The Lotschberg rail tunnel, Switzerland, 15 km long, opened.

1/8/1912, The Jungfrau rail tunnel, Switzerland, 7.5 km long, opened.

1/10/1910, The Ricken rail tunnel, Switzerland, 8.603 km long, opened on the Wattwil-Uznach line.

7/7/1909, The Tauern rail tunnel, Austria, 8.551 km long, opened on the Bad Gastein-Spittal line.

10/6/1908, The Gravehals rail tunnel, Norway, 5.5 km long, opened.

25/4/1907, The UK’s Channel Tunnel Bill was defeated because of War Office opposition and lack of popular support.

1/10/1906, The Karawanken rail tunnel, between Austria and Yugoslavia, 8 km long, opened.

9/7/1906, The Wochein rail tunnel, Yugoslavia, 6.5 km long, opened.

1/6/1906, The Simplon I rail tunnel, 20.5 km long, linking Switzerland and Italy, opened.

8/3/1904, The first rail tunnel under the Hudson River, New York, was completed (it did not open officially until 25/1/1908). The tunnel connected New Jersey with Manhattan.

1/9/1903, The Albula rail tunnel, Norway, 6 km long, opened.

9/12/1902. The Swiss Government agreed to build the Simplon Railway Tunnel.

1/10/1900, The Col di Tenda rail tunnel, Italy, 8.4 km long, opened.


30/7/1894, The San Cataldo rail tunnel, Italy, 5.1.41 km long, opened on the Agropoli-Supri-Naples-Reggio line.

18/6/1894, The Turchino rail tunnel, Italy, 6.9 km long, opened.

6/11/1893. The Totley rail tunnel, UK, 6 km long, opened.

1891, The Busk-Ivanhow Tunnel, USA, 2.864 km long, opened. It closed to rail traffic in 1919.

1890, The Tennessee Pass Tunnel, USA, 785m long, opened.

1889, The Arlberg Tunnel in Austria, 10 km long, opened.

20/6/1889, The Peloritana rail tunnel, Italy, 6.5 km long, opened

4/4/1889, The Ronco rail tunnel, Italy, 8.291 km long, opened on the Genoa-Milan line.

1/9/1886, Britain’s longest rail tunnel, the Severb Tunnel, was opened, 7km long (2 km are underwater). It took 14 years to build.

20/1/1886, The Mersey rail tunnel was formally opened by the Prince of Wales, at James Street station. Begun in 1881, it is 1,100 metres long.

1/8/1885, The Marianopoli rail tunnel, Italy, 6.9 km long, opened.

27/10/1884, The two headings of the Severn Rail Tunnel met under thr river.

20/9/1884, The Arlberg rail tunnel, Austria, 10.25 km long, opened on the Bludenz-St Anton line.

1/1/1882, The St Gotthard railway tunnel, 16 km long, opened to goods traffic. Passenger traffic was allowed from 1/6/1882.

29/2/1880, The cutting of the 15 km St Gotthard railway tunnel in Switzerland was completed. The chief engineer was Louis Favre. This linked the French and Italian rail systems.

9/2/1875, The Hoosac rail tunnel USA, 7 km long, opened.

13/9/1872, Work began on the St Gotthard railway tunnel.

17/9/1871, The 13.657 km Mont Cenis Tunnel, carrying the main railway from Lyons to Turin, was opened.

25/12/1870, The Mont Cenis Tunnel through the Alps, 12.9 km long, was completed (work began 1857)  when the tunnelers met in the middle.

21/2/1863, A pneumatic railway for Post Office parcels under London’s streets began operating.

18/8/1857, Work began on the 12.5 km Mont Cenis rail tunnel under the Alps, linking France and Italy.

2/2/1852, The second Woodhead railway tunnel, between Sheffield and Manchester, opened.  See 22/12/1845, 3/6/1954.

1/8/1849, The Standedge rail tunnel, UK, 5 km long, opened.

23/8/1847, The Higham and Strood Canal Tunnels in Kent were drained and converted into railway tunnels.

22/12/1845, The first of the original two single-track Woodhead railway tunnels, on the line between Sheffield and Manchester, opened to traffic.  See 2/2/1852.

25/3/1843, The world’s first public underwater tunnel opened. The Thames Tunnels, two parallel bores, were begun by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1825 and opened as pedestrian tunnels on 25/3/1843. They were subsequently converted to rail tunnels as part of the East London Railway and reopened on 7/12/1869.

17/7/1832, Glenfield Tunnel, 1,642 metres long, opened on the Leicester and Swannington railway, England. Passenger rail traffic ceased on 24/9/1928 and the line closed completely on 4/4/1966.

15/9/1830, The world’s first main line railway tunnel, on the Manchester to Liverpool line, was constructed. Passenger traffic ceased on 15/8/1836 when the Crown Street Terminus, Liverpool, closed and Liverpool Lime Street Station opened.

3/5/1830, The world’s first passenger railway tunnel opened. Tyler Hill Tunnel, between Canterbury and Whitstable, Kent, England, was 766 metres long. Passenger traffic ceased on 1/1/1931 and the line closed completely on 1/12/1952.

7/5/1816, Talyllyn tunnel on the Hay Railway, Brecon, Wales, 616 metres long, opened. It was part of the Brecon and Merthyr Railway from 1860, and railo traffic ceased on 2/5/1964.

9/1809, Hay Hill Tunnel,Forest of Dean, UK, 973 metres long, opened. In 1854 it became part of Brunels broad gauge Great Western Cinderford branch line. Rail services ceased on 1/8/1967.

1/5/1800, Chapel Milton Tunnel, on the Peak Forest Tramway, Derbyshire, UK, opened. It became part of the Ashby-Melboiurne branch of the Midland Railway on 1/1/1874. Passenger services ceased on 22/9/1930.

1770, The world’s oldest railway tunnel was opened in Newcastle on Tyne, UK.


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