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Old 07.05.2007, 11:14
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Lötschberg base tunnel: Opening festival June 16th '07

The Lötschberg base tunnel is virtually complete. Although regular passenger train service will not start until the new timetables are brought in on December 9th, 2007, there is going to be an opening festival on June 16th, 2007. Every half hour throughout the day, there will be passenger trains travelling through the 35 km (21 miles) long tunnel from Frutigen, in Bern, to Visp, in Valais / Wallis. For a 5 CHF reservation fee plus the cost of the normal train ticket, you can get yourself a place on one of these speedy trains. The RailAway site has a page about the opening festival in French or German.

Websites:
Lötschberg base tunnel: Wikipedia, MSNBC article on the tunnel breakthrough in 2005.
BLS AlpTransit (the company building the base tunnels): Homepage and Wikipedia

The Lötschberg base tunnel (combined with the old Simplon tunnel) is the first of two routes that will allow traffic to pass through the Alps without having to do any significant climbing (the other being the Gotthard base tunnel, see an EnglishForum thread on that, or the Wikipedia article). The Lötschberg base tunnel will be the longest land tunnel in the world (i.e., that doesn't go under a body of water). The base tunnels are being built to help take most of the European truck traffic off of Swiss roads and put it onto trains.

So, why not be one of the first to ride through the tunnel on June 16th? You can reserve a place at your local train station; they only started taking reservations on May 1st, and when I made mine this morning, there were still plenty of spaces available. There will be special festivities happening at the stations at both ends (Frutigen and Visp), and the trip through the tunnel could easily be combined with a trip down to Zermatt and maybe onto Gornergrat via a rack railway that will take you to above 3,000m.
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