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Swiss inaugurate $12 billion rail tunnel, world's longest

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Betty Gribble
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With a length of 57 km 35 miles crossing the Alps, the Gotthard Base tunnel is the world's longest train tunnel.

More than 2,200 years after the commander from the ancient North African civilization of Carthage led his army of elephants and troops over Europe's highest mountain chain, Swiss leaders have completed another gargantuan task — and on time: Burrowing the world's longest railway tunnel under the Swiss Alps to ease trade and congestion in European trade and travel.

The thoroughfare aims to cut travel times, ease roadway traffic and draw cargo from pollution-spewing lorries trucking between Europe's north and south.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi came for a flashy celebration featuring musical bands, dancers and even a tunnel theme song.

In a glitzy show under purple neon lights, performers dressed up in orange miners' suits and protective helmets danced atop a moving rail car, while others in skimpy outfits feigned wrestling.

Split-screen TV images showed two trains in opposition directions entering and leaving the tunnel entrances nearly simultaneously on both ends.

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