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News

Long Rail Tunnel Holes Through in Japan

12/03/2005
Long Rail Tunnel Holes Through in JapanThe last metre of bedrock marking the breakthrough of the Hakkoda tunnel was blasted on Sunday 27th February, 2005 at an official ceremony, drawing cheers and applause from some 600 workers and officials. The tunnel is part of an extension to a high speed rail line. The tunnel has been dug through the eastern foothills of the Hakkoda volcanic group with its highest peak, Odake, at 1,585 metres. The area is dotted with hot springs and snow in winter. Some of the excavated rocks contained pyrite which produces sulfur when exposed to water and oxygen. It is a single bore for double tracks. It has cost JPY66.7 billion (USD635 million) to construct since it was launched six and a half years ago over six sections, each measuring about 4.5 km. The tunnel will now have to be lined with concrete, and tracks laid.The 26.5 km-long tunnel, under a mountain in Aomori prefecture, 550 km north of Tokyo on the northern tip of Japan's main island of Honshu, is the world's longest land rail tunnel but is unlikely to hold the record for long as the 28.4 km Guadarrama tunnel in Spain is due for completion this March as well as the 34.6 km Loetschberg tunnel in Switzerland shortly after. It overtakes the 25.8 km Iwate Ichinohe tunnel on the same line as the world's longest land rail tunnel. However, whatever the type of rail tunnels, land or subsea, the Hakkoda tunnel is the third longest in the world behind the 53.8 km Seikan tunnel linking the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu across the Tsugaru Strait, and the 50.4 km Channel tunnel between the UK and France.Critics say the tunnel will not be financially viable and that it is a waste of money because Aomori is a lightly populated area. They argue the two giant undersea tunnels in Seikan built in Japan in the 1980s at a cost of many billions of yens have done little to boost the economies of the areas they connected. But the central government still faces strong lobbying to fund new infrastructure, because many of Japan's depressed regions can think of no other way to revive their economies. The railway extension will take five to seven more years to complete. The 57.1 km Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland, due to open in 2015, will be the longest rail tunnel ever built around the world. 10/05.



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