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Swiss inch toward breakthrough in what will be world's longest railway tunnel

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GENEVA - Workers toiling deep beneath the Swiss Alps are inching toward a breakthrough in what will soon be the world's longest railway tunnel.

The company in charge of the project says there are only 59 feet (18 metres) left to dig before completing the last section of the new Gotthard Base Tunnel.

AlpTransit Gotthard AG said Wednesday it plans to break through the final stretch of rock some 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) below the Piz Vatgira peak on Oct. 15.

The 35.4-mile (57-kilometre) tunnel will dramatically speed up railroad connections between northern Europe and Italy when it is opened for traffic in 2017.

It will supplant Japan's 33.46-mile (53.85-kilometre) Seikan Tunnel as the world's longest transportation tunnel.

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