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Swiss give go-ahead to world's tallest elevator in Alps

Written by: Staff

ZURICH, Aug 25 (Reuters) Train passengers will be able to ride the world's tallest elevator in the heart of the Alps after Swiss authorities gave it the green light today.

The 800-metre elevator will link a high mountain valley to a station on the longest rail tunnel in the world, housing a new high-speed train link between Zurich and Milan.

The Porta Alpina station and elevator project will cost an estimated 40.4 million dollars, the canton of Graubuenden said in a statement.

''This region has great expectations for economic and tourism development,'' Arno Lanfranchi, project leader for the Graubuenden authorities, told Reuters by telephone.

The elevator shaft is far higher than the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan, the world's tallest building.

It is already in place after being used to ferry material up and down to the Gotthard base tunnel, which will be 57 km long when completed in 2016.

The canton hopes to boost the economic fortunes of the remote Surselva valley by slashing journey times from major cities via the Gotthard tunnel. The valley is the source of the River Rhine and surrounded by 3,000-meter peaks.

''We hope it will bring tourists who want to experience the Porta Alpina and the mountain scenery,'' Lanfranchi said. ''It may bring people from Milan, who want to escape from the winter fog and up to the sunny mountains.'' The Gotthard rail tunnel, part of a wider project to upgrade north-south links under the Alps, will be far deeper than the existing tunnel and will cut journey times from Zurich to Milan by an hour.

Regional authorities are funding half the Porta Alpina project, with the rest of the money coming from Switzerland's federal government.

''The project cannot be operational until the Gotthard base tunnel is finished,'' Lanfranchi said. ''It should be ready almost immediately after that.'' REUTERS KR RK1829

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