Passenger services began using the country’s longest railway tunnel on November 16, the day after the first revenue freight train.
With a 4174 m long northern bore and 4150 m southern bore, the tunnel under the Chlum and Homolka hills near Ejpovice to the east of Plzeň is the main feature of a new 141 km double-track alignment between Rokycany (Ejpovice) and Plzeň-Doubravka. This is 61 km shorter than the 20 km route via Chrást, which will now be partly closed.
Trains are initially only using the southern bore until December 7th and will run at a maximum speed of 50 km/h until the launch of the full service and 160 km/h running with the December 9 timetable change. This will reduce the journey time between Plzeň and Praha-Smíchov by 11 min.
The slab track in the tunnel has been designed for a maximum of 200 km/h, and testing at this speed is planned for 2019. ETCS is due to be installed in 2021.
Progress was delayed by more than a year because of unstable soil, excessive groundwater and archaeological surveys.
The previous longest tunnel in the country was the 1758 m Březenský tunnel near Chomutov which opened in 2007.