10 Longest Rail Tunnel in the World

Longest Rail Tunnel in the World
Image credit: Hannes Ortlieb (Diskussion) / Wikimedia

Tunnels, like bridges, are modern engineering wonders, even though humans have been constructing them for thousands of years.

Humans used to carve tunnels out of gigantic granite walls with chisels and hammers, but now methods have advanced over the decades.

Humans can dig quicker and intelligently with contemporary technology, resulting in huge structures of tunnels that drastically reduce transit time between destinations.

Due to their hilly topographies, the most magnificent and longest rail tunnel in the world is currently located in countries of Europe and Asia.

Asia is home to seven of the world’s longest railway tunnels, including 4 in Japan and 2 in China. 3 of the 10 longest are in Europe, including the Channel Tunnel in the United Kingdom.

In this article, we’ll talk all about the top longest rail tunnel in the world.¬†

1. Seikan Tunnel, Japan

The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is the deepest and longest rail tunnel in the world. It measures 53.85 kilometers. Seikan tunnel connects the Hokkaido and Honshu islands via the Tsugaru Strait.

It was constructed 100 meters beneath the seafloor and currently contains a 23.3-kilometer submerged section. It opened to the public in March 1988 and is used to operate express trains.

168,000 tonnes of steel, 1.74 million cubic meters of concrete, and 2,860 tonnes of explosives were used to construct the tunnel.

The main construction contractor was the Seikan Construction Bureau. Inside the tunnel, there are two stations: Tappi Kaitei and Yoshioka Kaitei.

Length: 53.85 kilometers/ 33.4 miles

2. Channel Tunnel, UK

The Channel Tunnel measures 50.5 kilometers long and connects the English Channel between the United Kingdom and France.

It is the undersea longest rail tunnel in the world. It runs from Folkestone, Kent, in the United Kingdom, to Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, France. 

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After approximately 6 years of construction and a cost of $14.7 billion, the tunnel was ready for use in 1994. The international federation of civil engineering consultancies, FIDIC, recently awarded it the Global Engineering’ Century Award.’

Length: 50.5 kilometers/ 31.3 miles

3. Lötschberg Base Tunnel, Switzerland

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel runs through the Swiss Alps. It is the third longest rail tunnel in the world. The 34.6-kilometer tunnel allows BLS to operate passenger and freight trains on the Lötschberg line.

The tunnel has a non-ballasted track where trains can travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour. The tunnel was built starting in April 2005 and finished in 2006.

In December 2007, it began full-scale operations. The tunnel was constructed with twin single-track tubes.

But, it was only half completed since only one tube was fully fitted, while the other was mostly left as a shell. Transverse tunnels at 333m distances connect the two tubes.

Length: 34.6 kilometers/ 21.4 miles

4. Guadarrama Rail Tunnel, Spain

Guadarrama is Spain’s longest twin-tube rail tunnel. Also, the fourth-longest rail tunnel in the world. For the high-speed train between Madrid and Valladolid, a 28.4-kilometer tunnel was excavated through the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. The central axes of the two parallel tunnels are 30 meters apart.

TBMs from Herrenknecht and Wirth were used to build the tunnel between 2002 and 2007. The tunnel’s interior diameter is 8.5 meters, while the excavation diameter is 9.45 meters.

The 2 tunnels are connected by interconnection tubes every 250 meters. Up to 1,200 people can be accommodated in an emergency room positioned in the tunnel’s midsection.

Length: 28.4 kilometers/ 17.6 miles

5. Taihang Tunnel, China

The Taihang Tunnel is in China’s Taihang Mountains. It is the world’s fifth-longest railway tunnel. The 27.8-kilometer twin-tube tunnel was constructed to cross the Taihang Mountains as part of the Shijiazhuang-Taiyuan railway network. The tunnel’s construction was finished in December 2007.

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With a maximum cover of 445 meters, the tunnel cuts through Yue Xiao. It is the major crest of the Taihang Mountains. The left track is 27,839 meters long, while the right track is 27,848 meters long. Between the 2 tubes is a 35-meter distance. P√∂yry was in charge of the tunnel’s design.

Length: 27.8 kilometers/ 17.2 miles

6. Hakkoda Tunnel, Japan

It has a length of 26.45 kilometers. The Hakkoda tunnel is Japan’s longest land-based double-track railway tunnel. Also, the sixth-longest rail tunnel in the world.

It is situated between Tenmabayashi-mura and Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. This is at the northern extremity of Hakkoda Mountain.

The New Austrian Tunneling Method was used to construct the tunnel. It began in August 1998 and was finished in February 2005. (NATM). The Otsubo segment of the tunnel was completed by the Kajima joint project.

Length: 26.5 kilometers/ 16.4 miles

7. Iwate-Ichinohe Tunnel, Japan

The Iwate-Ichinohe tunnel in Japan is the world’s seventh-longest railway tunnel. It has a total length of 25.81 kilometers and is part of the Tohoku Shinkansen railway.

In August 1991, work on the tunnel began. It was finished in the year 2000. So, the services commenced in the year 2002. However, after an earthquake in 2011, the tunnel services were halted.

Moving on, a single bore twin track with a horseshoe form is used in the tunnel design. In cross-section, it measures 9.8m broad and 7.7m high.

Length: 25.8 kilometers/ 16 miles

8. Daishimizu Tunnel, Japan

The 22-kilometer Daishimizu tunnel is the world’s eighth-longest rail tunnel. It is situated on Japan’s Joetsu Shinkansen line. Daishimizu tunnel cut the distance between Niigata and Tokyo in half, to around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The tunnel was built through the Mikuni mountain range using drill and blast digging methods. Because of the steep terrain of the site, access shafts were used to divide the construction into 6 portions. Also, at less than 10-kilometer intervals, evacuation sites were established.

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During the tunnel’s construction, underground water was discovered. There was also a fire that cost the lives of 16 workers.

Length: 22 kilometers/ 13 miles

9. Wushaoling Tunnel, China

Wushaoling tunnel is the ninth longest rail tunnel in the world. It has a total length of 21.05 kilometers. It was built as part of the Lanxin high-speed railway line and is located in Gansu Province, China. 

In November 2002, work on the tunnel began. It was constructed in a geologically difficult fault zone. This was by utilizing the New Austrian Tunneling Method. For the tunnel’s construction, Lingyuan Iron supplied 4,360t of steel.

The tunnel comprises 2 40-meter-long bores. This tunnel was drilled to a depth of 1,100 meters. It is capable of reaching a top speed of 160 km/h.

Length: 21 kilometers/ 13 miles

10. Geumjeong Tunnel, South Korea

The Geumjeong tunnel, with 20.3 kilometers in length, is the world’s tenth longest rail tunnel. It is a part of the high-speed rail route that connects Seoul and Busan.

Nopo neighborhood and Busanjin station in Busan are connected via a tunnel. They cut under the Geumjeong Mountain.

Geumjeong is also the longest rail tunnel in South Korea. It’s more than 300 meters underground. It is 14 meters wide and 12 meters tall. The Korea Rail Network Authority owns the tunnel.

The construction of this tunnel was done in 3 phases. The last of the construction was finished in 2009. In 2008, the first 2 parts were opened. In February 2009, the final stretch connecting Nopo-dong and Hwamyeong-dong was constructed.

Length: 20.3 kilometers/ 12.6 miles

Bottom Line

This is by no means an extensive list; we made every effort to cover the longest rail tunnel in the world. Finally, tunnels are unquestionably more cost-effective than open cuttings beyond a certain depth. During construction, tunnels minimize disrupting or interfering with surface life and transport.

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