(CNN) -- A massive drilling machine broke through rock beneath the Swiss Alps on Friday, creating what is being touted as the world's longest railroad tunnel.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel is 57 km (34 miles) and links northern and southern Europe, AlpTransit Gotthard company said in a statement.
"The world's longest tunnel should become operational at the end of 2017," the statement said.
The tunnel will cut regional travel time on routes including Zurich, Switzerland, to Milan, Italy, an important business link.
Officials say demands for railroads have increased as international trade goes up and road traffic worsens.
Freight traffic in the entire Alpine region will grow by as much as 75 percent by 2010, according to a study by the EU Commission.
The trend will affect the environment, prompting Switzerland to adopt environmentally-friendly means of travel.
The company says the tunnel is an environmental feat and will allow millions more tons of items to pass through the Alps by rail.
"Only by upgrading its railway infrastructure can Switzerland meet the rising demand for freight transportation and the increasing needs of customers," the statement said.