Bizarre Stage Show Opens 35-Mile Rail Tunnel Under Swiss Alps

Switzerland opened the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel, which cuts through the heart of the Alps, with a striking spectacle.

Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann, right, listens to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 1, 2016, the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel, at the northern portal in Erstfeld, Switzerland.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel under Switzerland's Alps has taken 17 years and cost about $12 billion to construct and removes one of Europe's most stubborn natural barriers to trade and tourism: the lack of a fast route through the mountain range at the crossroads of four countries.

Peter Klaunzer / AP

Performers dressed as miners perform at the opening ceremony of the tunnel, now officially the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel. Designed to last a century, the rail will go below the Alps, as deep as 1.7 miles under the mountain chain that divides Europe's north and south.


A artist dressed as a goat performs during the opening show directed by German theatrical director Volker Hesse. 


An artist performs with wings during the show.  

The thoroughfare aims to cut travel times, ease roadway traffic and reduce the air pollution spewed from trucks traveling between Europe's north and south. Set to open for commercial service in December, the two-way tunnel can handle up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains per day.

Ruben Sprich / Pool via AP

Artists perform during the opening show

The tunnel runs between the German-speaking Swiss town of Erstfeld in the north and Italian-speaking Bodio in the south. 


Horses pull a stagecoach during the opening show. 

At the peak of construction, as many as 2,400 workers took part in the project. The two holes were connected in October 2010, some 11 years after the first blast to build the tunnel, which took place in the last century.

Peter Klaunzer / AP

Artists perform during the opening show.

Many tunnels crisscross the Swiss Alps, and Gotthard Pass already has two -- the first, also for trains, was built in 1882. But the Gotthard Base Tunnel is a record-setter: It eclipses Japan's 53.8-kilometer Seikan Tunnel as the world's longest and bores deeper than any other tunnel, running about 1.4 miles underground at its maximum depth.


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. Trapeze artists hung from chains or ropes, a band blared out a thumping military march and helicopters buzzed overhead.


Artists dressed as nuns perform during the opening show.

Alexandra Wey / EPA

Passengers ride the first train through the Gotthard tunnel from Arth-Goldau to Bellinzona, Switzerland. 500 lucky winners were selected from the 130,000 who entered a lottery for the inaugural trip.


Fireworks explode as the first train coming from the south leaves the tube on the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel. 

Read: Gotthard Tunnel Opens Under Swiss Alps