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World's Deepest Underground Station Mooted at Gotthard

World's Deepest Underground Station Mooted at GotthardPlans are afoot to build the world's deepest underground railway station in Switzerland, nearly one kilometre below the surface. The "Porta Alpina" would be in the new Alptransit Gotthard base tunnel linking Zürich and Milan, and provide a gateway to the Alps. The project still needs federal approval. On 18th September, the authorities in canton Graubünden where the station would be located, submitted a formal request for funding to the federal government.The Porta Alpina project is a one km-long access tunnel bored into a mountainside, leading to an elevator which descends a further 800 metres. The lift would cover a distance greater than the highest building on Earth. The tunnel and elevator shaft are already in place just outside the village of Sedrun in canton Graubünden providing access to one of the main construction sites where workers and machines are digging the Gotthard base tunnel. When it opens in 2014, the tunnel will allow trains to travel non-stop at speeds exceeding 200 kph between northern Switzerland and northern Italy, cutting journey times between Zürich and Milan by nearly half.The idea is to break the journey at a permanent subterranean station, where intercity train passengers would be able to get off, breathe some fresh mountain air and perhaps do a little skiing. Vision Porta Alpina, an association set up to push up the project, eventually managed to convince enough decision-makers to carry out a feasibility study. The results have just been published and show that a permanent station can be built at the relatively low cost of between CHF40 and CHF50 million. The study, carried out by the government of canton Graubünden and University of St Gallen, also reveals the station would boost the economy of Sedrun and other villages in the Surselva valley of canton Graubünden At least 50,000 new tourists would come to ski, golf or hike each year, generating an additional CHF30 million in turnover annually. The valley would become an attractive place to live and work since Zürich and Milan would only be an hour away.The Swiss Federal Railways, which would have to operate the Sedrun station, is among the main critics arguing that a decision will have to be taken either in favour of passenger and heavy freight trains running non-stop after each other or passenger trains having to stop to load or unload a couple of dozen passengers. If built, Porta Alpina would become a top tourist attraction and enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Visit www.visiun-porta-alpina.ch/website_neu/hintergrund.php and www.alptransit.ch 40/03.