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RACK ATTACK: The rack and pinion railway hauling up the zig-zag lines in the steep valleys to Sedrun village may be wonderful for tourism but the tiny trains, with their restricted loads and limited speeds, are useless for commerce.

These problems also beset the main lines which loop around long spiral tunnels to cross the high altitude passes dividing Europe. Swiss Federal Railways' Alptransit project, which began early this decade, is intended to change this.

Along two routes through the Alps, it will push tunnels up to 2,000m deep to allow TGVs to run at 250km/h, express freight on light trains at 160km/h and normal freight loads at 120km/h.

At the heart of the project is the giant Gotthard twin tunnel, potentially the world's longest at 57km - a little more than the Channel Tunnel.

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