When asked about the longest underwater tunnel in the world, you’d be forgiven for volunteering the Channel Tunnel, which is an impressive 31 mile stretch, between the UK and France as your answer – but there is in fact an even longer one which puts the iconic Chunnel to shame.
Located in Asia, this railway tunnel is a whopping 3,000 metres longer than its British-French rival, despite opening six years earlier in 1988.
Japan’s Seikan Tunnel came at a stunning price too – seven billion US dollars – while maintenance costs have racked up an eye-watering 286 million US dollars since 1999.
The infrastructure connects Japan’s main island of Honshu to the northern island (and second biggest) of Hokkaido – a project which had been considered since 1912.
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The tunnel is also the deepest railway line in the world, at a whopping 240 metres below the sea surface, and at times, 100 metres below the seabed. By contrast, the Channel Tunnel is 75 metres down at its deepest.
Planning for Seikan only got mentioned after the end of World War Two, when Japan had to resettle many returning people after their overseas territory was diminished. They previously had territory in much of modern-day China and most of modern-day Vietnam.
Originally a fixed link ferry was thought to be the main plan, but when five ferries sank in 1954, an idea for a train tunnel was floated – especially as planned economic growth would have overwhelmed the ferry port which couldn’t be expanded because of geographical features.
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Nowadays, all railway transport between the two islands uses the tunnel – although sadly not many people use the train.
Most people fly between the destinations because of the relative cheapness and speed of air travel – much to the detriment of the climate.
Developments are not finished yet though – the final instalment is planned to be over in 2031, connecting Tokyo to Sapporo in five hours.
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