(AGI) Rome, June 1 - The Gotthard tunnel, the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel, has officially opened in Switzerland. The first train passed through the 57 km tunnel in 30 minutes. This extraordinary piece of engineering is likely to redraw Europe's transport map and give new impetus to rail transport, playing a key role in trade between the north and south of Europe. On board the first train were Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Swiss President Joan Schneider-Ammann and Austrian Premier Christian Kern. They crossed under the Gotthard from Erstfeld to Bodio. It took 17 years of work and just over 11 billion euros to finish the project. The railway tunnel, part of a transport route between Rotterdam on the North Sea and Genoa on the Mediterranean, will enter service in December. The new connection should decongest the roads from freight transport. The new base tunnel is situated about 15 kilometres from the old one, built 600m higher between 1872 and 1881. The old tunnel has a weight limit of 1,300 tonnes per train, up to 3,600 tonnes in the new one. About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through each day, freight at 100 km per hour and passengers at twice that. The opening of the new tunnel is expected to boost passenger numbers from 9,000 to 15,000 per day by 2020. The new international rail links between Milan and Frankfurt, via Switzerland, will open in December 2017. On the same day as the opening of the new Gotthard tunnel, the port of Genoa inaugurated new cranes, among the highest in the world. (AGI) . .