World’s longest rail tunnel faces setback.

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The Alpine Brenner Pass from Austria to Italy that is going to be the world’s longest rail tunnel reportedly suffered a setback recently after the company managing and overseeing the site cancelled the consortium building contract that was for a major part of the tunnel. The overseeing company, BBT SE, said in a statement that they were “putting an end to its contractual relationship with ARGE H51,” an Austrian-Italian consortium. ARGE H51 began working on a stretch of the tunnel between the Austrian village of Pfons and the Italian border back in 2018 but due to a “definitive refusal to provide contractually agreed services and a loss of trust” the overseers said they had “regrettably been forced” to take this course of action.

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The tunnel was initially slated to open in 2025 but the current projected end date is 2028 but BBT SE have not yet released the new projected dates since the current dates have been impacted severely after construction was halted for several days. BBT SE’s decision makes a further multi-year delay to this critical European infrastructure project inevitable, along with cost increases in the millions and in May, Austria’s public auditor said it expected work to take until 2030 due to disputes between the companies involved.

The idea of building a rail tunnel under the Alps stretches back to the 1980s and the current project is part of an ambitious European programme to strengthen north-south transport links across the continent and once operational, the tunnel will be the longest of its kind in the world, stretching for 64 kilometres (40 miles). Currently, 2,800 people are employed in the construction works, which began in 2011. The contract for the section in question was signed for almost US$1.18 billion, while the cost of the tunnel project as a whole is estimated at 8.4 billion euros.