It begins with the Eurocity EC 11, which leaves Zurich's main station at 6:09 a.m. this Sunday. It's the first scheduled passenger train that will travel on through the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, at a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour.
Later 250 km/h are to be allowed in the 57-kilometer-long (35-mile-long) tunnel. The express train is expected to arrive in Lugano on the south side of the Alps at 8:17 a.m.
Thanks to the new tunnel, the travel time from north to south will be shortened in a first step by 30 minutes when the new timetable comes into effect. Time saved might amount to an entire hour when the 15-kilometer-long Ceneri Base Tunnel, an important link to the south, opens in late 2020.
For travelers, the Zurich-Milan IC, Zurich-Lugano IC and the Basel-Lugano IC will run at two-hour intervals for now, making a total of about 50 passenger trains daily.
In December 2017, a daily direct service between Frankfurt and Milan through Switzerland is to be introduced.
At a good 57 kilometers, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is the world's longest railway tunnel, supplanting the former record-holder, the Seikan Tunnel, which opened in 1988. That tunnel, which links the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu, measures just under 53.9 kilometers, with about 23 of them under the seabed.
At 50.5 kilometers, with some 38 of them under the seabed, the third-longest mainline railway tunnel is the Channel Tunnel, which opened in 1994, linking the UK and France.